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THEATER REVIEW Hurricane Diane
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2022-07-04

This article shared 1566 times since Mon Jul 4, 2022
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Title: Hurricane Diane. Playwright: Elizabeth George

At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave; www.theaterwit.org/ . Tickets: $25-$48. Runs through: July 31

If you had an exceptionally audacious lit professor, you probably read The Bacchae for your Greek Tragedy class and, thus, already know about Dionysus (or Dionysos, as it's sometimes spelled; or, in Rome, Bacchus). You know that Dionysus is the founder of wine and all the beneficial social rituals arising therefrom (including theater);, does not adhere to conventional moral behavior; and is very, very sexy. At the four annual Dionysia festivals celebrated by the Greeks, attendees' civic duty demanded they drink—but only to the point of intoxication—and then allow your actions to be guided by the deity's whim. In ancient times, this might include the (mostly) female worshippers rending animals, and even men, limb from limb in a frenzy, but later was reduced to rites honoring the land's fertile abundance.

Oh, and since Dionysus is one of those shape-shifting gods, Elizabeth George has this Olympian rebel appear in her play as a non-binary lesbian landscaper with the suave charisma of a country crooner. Diane, as the disguised demigod is now called, has come to woo converts into saving the earth from climate change by replacing their lawns with life-sustaining permaculture botanicals. She begins her quest in New Jersey, with four wives who dwell in the kind of tract homes where every house has the same floor plan as its neighbor. Renee is already a Green enthusiast. Carol, however, prefers an English lawn with Victorian furnishings; Pam wants Italian fountains and flora like the mural in the local deli; and shy Beth, recently divorced and ready to experience ecstasy, wants an Arthur Rackham-style fairy garden where she can lie in the grass and indulge in innocent fancies. Guess who succumbs first.

At this juncture, Apollo may strike you with a bolt from the blue: This is not 405 BC—or 1956, for that matter—and what was plausible in Euripedes' or Grace Metalious' day may not reflect today's society. If a stranger of tradesman status invaded YOUR community, wouldn't your suspicions be aroused along with your hormones, and wouldn't you notify the police (or the Better Business Bureau, at least)? Too, if you haven't given a thought to the structural components of Attic drama since your schooldays, the hymnal epilogue that follows the spectacular tech-heavy apocalypse will leave you utterly bewildered.

Fortunately, these middle-class matrons transcend their superficial stereotypess to exude so much sincere charm that even playgoers who don't know a parabasis from a paralegal can have some fun trashing these would-be maenads, and if you happen to be a fire-breathing eco-warrior, you can revel in portents of armageddon delivered in nannyishly severe tones—or you can just sit back and watch Diane (as portrayed by the always welcome Kelli Simpkins) cast her seductive pagan spell.


This article shared 1566 times since Mon Jul 4, 2022
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