Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Maids

Ana Reeder, Jeanine Serralles
Photo: Carol Rosegg

In Jean Genet's intense one-act, The Maids, Claire and Solange are in service to a frivolous woman who treats them with a false bonhomie; she believes she is a generous and kind mistress, but she is self-centered and unaware they exist outside of her needs. The sisters express their repressed intelligence, energy, imagination, and anger in sadomasochistic play in which one sister plays "Madame" and the other her servant. The Maids is loosely based on a true story, and in response to the accusation that maids "never spoke like that," Genet said, "If one put one's ear on their heart, they would hear that, more or less. One must know how to hear what is not articulated." However, just as we don't really hear the ocean when we put a shell up to our ears, Genet didn't really hear the maids. What he did hear, I suspect, were his own thoughts and desires, which The Maid expresses with a clarity both compelling and fevered.

In the Red Bull production, the three-woman cast consists of Jeanine Serralles and Ana Reeder as the sisters and J. Smith-Cameron as Madame. All three are vivid and excellent. Dane Laffrey's fine set is boxed in, with two-foot-high walls and audience on all four sides. Director Jesse Berger has the women use the space as a combination of jail cell and boxing ring, and the viewers end up as voyeurs as much as theatre-goers.

Genet also said, "I go to the theatre in order to see myself, onstage . . . such as I wouldn't know--or dare--see or dream myself, and yet such as I know I am." In The Maids, we see a version of him, and it is an intense, disturbing, and often fascinating ninety-minute view.

(press ticket, first row, quotes from program)

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