Victoria Reibel & Katrina Strange in The Maids.
By Jean Genet
Adapted and directed by Tad Chitwood
Review by Jane Mattingly
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Jane Mattingly. All rights reserved.
The game is always the same for Solange and Claire, the two sisters that tend to a wealthy Madame. They set an alarm clock to ensure they’re never caught, but they always spend too much time tied up in the details of their secret game to finish it properly, before they have to hurriedly straighten Madame’s perfect white bedspreads, return her delicate gowns to the wardrobe, and arrange her jewels precisely the way they were before they began their sacred, sadomasochistic, murder fantasy ritual.
Victoria Reibel and Karina Strange neither look or sound anything alike, but are convincing right off as siblings who play a secret game of pretend one second, scream at one another the next, and love each other throughout. The emotional turmoil these two actors evoke is astonishing and distinct. Reibel is fierce and open with her pain as she lets the words of her internal monologue fly like daggers toward her sister. Strange keeps it more internalized in a dark, awful place until it all comes pouring out. They’re an incredible pair.
As the glamorous Madame, Beth Tantanella adds a compelling third layer. As she gives orders, she also fusses over the two maids like they’re her little dolls, and it quickly becomes apparent how lonely and imprisoned this character is as well, and she doesn’t have anyone on her side like the maids do. She lets her weaknesses show in front of the sister, as they quiver in front of her when, just minutes before, they were throwing her things around and taking turns dominating one another. Solange and Claire at least have one another to share their pain; Madame doesn’t. All three characters have displaced passion that they can’t seem to channel in any healthy directions, which the actors reveal with remarkable dynamics.
The mood of the performance is strangely erotic and passionate, always remaining provocative in its gloomiest moments. The triangular tableau of the set design keeps the actors very close to the audience most of the time and is a strong use of Walden’s thrust stage. The pace slows pretty drastically at the end and is, for the most part, effective. Strange keeps it dangling right above the edge of dragging. It’s one of those pieces where, when the house lights come up at the end, audience members are looking wide-eyed at their friends mumbling, “oh, shit” (in a good way). I came to this performance immediately after cackling and drinking my way through Oedipus Rex: The Original MF and was hurled to the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum, which is part of the beauty of this theatre festival and what makes The Maids a powerful and important contribution.
Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company
Saturday, November 15 – 9 pm
Sunday, November 16 – 5 pm
Wednesday, November 19 – 9 pm
Saturday, November 22 – 7 pm
Part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204