It would be hard for me to say no to a chance to see one of the plays of the infamous Jean Genet. I’ve spent a lifetime hearing about him, but have had only one previous chance to see one of his works staged (and that was a student production). So I rocked right up to Trafalgar Studios for an early showing (it was some flavor of press night) of The Maids to check out, up close and in person (in fact in the front row) what all the fuss was about.
The set was done up so that it was like a little box in the middle of the theater, the floor covered with flower petals (and the corners twisting wood like for a four-poster bed). Two black women were on the stage as the curtain rose – one dressed in a fancy outfit and a blonde wig, the other in a maid’s uniform. I actually thought the blonde one was well and truly the rich woman being horribly, horribly cruel to her paid help. Finally I got that both of them were role playing, and I was able to relax a little into the story – although the story got creepier and creepier as time rolled on. These two women were sisters? Did they really hate each other that much? Were they supposed to have an incestuous relationship? I could understand them loathing their boss, but they seemed to hate themselves as well, but with a hatred in some way fed and watered by their job and by their employer.
And then … well, it kind of descended into a thriller/whodunit kind of thing. The “mistress” showed up, the maids got to freak out about lies they’d told and a phone call, and there was a big to-do about a cup of tea. The floor was swept and then covered with petals again. I found the ending blundering toward me like a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man … one hundred percent obvious from ten miles away and about as exciting to watch. Hmph. I suppose the whole thing was very cutting edge in the 1950s, but next time … I can probably get just as much cutting edge social commentary from watching a student show. I’m glad I went, but I don’t think there’s much to recommend this production other than satisfying the curiosity of seeing it on stage.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. It continues through May 21st.)