Looks at Climate Change With Humor and Relevance
TR Robertson–The Greek gods are not happy with what we are doing to our Earth, at least one Greek god in particular. Such is the premise of the Obie award winning comedy, “Hurricane Diane”, by Pulitzer playwright finalist Madeleine George, now on stage at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Old Globe Conrad Prebys Theatre Center in Balboa Park.
The Greek god Dionysus has surfaced, after spending time with lesbian separatists in Vermont, and taken an earthly incarnation of Diane, a butch gardener. As Diane states, “Gods don’t die, they just change form”. Dionysus, known as Bacchus by the Romans, is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. Now known as Diane, this butch gardener has decided to recruit, by seduction, four New Jersey housewives, all living in a cul-de-sac in Monmouth County, Red Bank, New Jersey, to help start a movement to return the Earth to its natural environment. With this as a plot, the audience is in for a wild 90 minute, hilarious, modestly sexy tale that has an under-current of seriousness about what we humans have slowly done to our world.
Photos by John Cox
The very talented and professional cast is led by the butch gardener Diane, played by Rami Margron, who has also performed in Madeleine George’s play “Precious Little”. Rami has performed in numerous Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions as well as in film and television. Rami, as Diane, moves effortlessly with each suburban housewife, carefully trying to say and behave just the right way to seduce each woman. The captivating speeches and tirades Diane delivers to the audience and to each of the four women points to what we have allowed to happen on the planet and the potential for ecological disaster if we don’t start to correct what we have allowed to happen. But, this is not a Greek god of total doom and gloom as Rami brings a captivating and at times humorous side to this “demigod”.
The four housewives, Diane sets out to seduce, are as different as night and day. There’s Carol Fleischer, who is a fast talking, independent woman, who has a series of specific HGTV things she wants done to her yard, most of which Diane does not support, causing Carol to have second thoughts about using Diane as her gardener. Carol doesn’t feel the all-natural look will fit into the cul-de-sac appearance and upon hearing about the planting of fruit trees, like Paw-pas that used to be in this area, she really lets her nervous energy surface. She is a pharmaceutical executive who dislikes the idea her company has been involved in shaky issues and definitely does not want to lose the “curb appeal” of the neighborhood homes, which offends Diane. Carol is played by Liz Wisan, who last appeared at The Old Globe in “Baskerville: Sherlock Holmes Mystery”. This veteran actress is perfect as the high-strung suburban housewife who fights change with everything she has, including down to the final scenes when she takes on this ecologically minded Greek god.
Playing Beth Wann is Jennifer Paredes, who is making a return to San Diego, but has performed in The Old Globe productions of “American Mariachi”, “Twelfth Night” and “Waking La Llorona”. Beth’s husband have recently left her, leaving her a nervous, timid wreck. Beth is searching for something to bring meaning to her life and as such is a perfect first recruit for Diane. Jennifer brings a tender, touching approach to Beth as she becomes a convert to turning her yard into a “self-sustaining permaculture” example of what Diane wants for this Earth.
The next cul-de-sac recruit is Renee Shapiro-Epps, an HGTV editor who is going through some occupational struggles with the direction she feels the HGTV magazine should now be taking. The appearance of the ecologically minded Diane is perfect for what Renee feels homes should now have in their yards and her seduction is quick, fast and expected. Playing Renee is another Old Globe veteran, Opal Alladin, who has appeared in “Tiny Beautiful Things” and “Hamlet” as well as on Broadway in the productions of “The Lifespan of a Fact” and “Travesties”. Opal flows on stage as Renee and stands out as a woman who feels she has given in to the established, acceptable corporate “don’t rock the boat” philosophy too long and change is needed.
The final recruit for Diane’s “Bacchants” is a hit of the play. The leopard/tiger print wearing, out-spoken “tell-it-like-it-is”, New Jersey raised Pam Annunziata is brought to life with incredible hilarity by Jenn Harris, a New York City based actor, writer and producer. She is an award winning Broadway actress who has also performed at The Old Globe in “The Women” and “In Your Arms” as well as numerous theatrical productions, film and television shows. Pam is loud, a bit abrasive, who stirs the ire of the ladies at times with her opinionated, but very funny, comments. During one of the ladies coffee meetings, this time with mimosas, the ladies begin to discuss their sex lives and the amount of sex they have or had with their husbands. Pam blurts out she has sex with her husband everyday “to keep from, you know, hating his guts”. Jenn is spot-on perfect as the wild haired Pam and also becomes one of Diane’s recruits.
A furious climax to the play occurs as a storm once again approaches the city of Red Bank and Diane and Carol bicker while the “Bacchants” slink around Carol’s kitchen, then break into a song written by Golden Howl, that doesn’t speak kindly about what is going on in our world.
This is an interesting, unusual play with a definite message wrapped in a comedy and well worth adding to your theatrical experience. Diane says toward the end of the play, “It’s hard to move in this world if you can’t show people who you are”. The play is directed by Old Globe Veteran director James Vasquez. His Creative Team included Scenic Designer Jo Winiarski, Costume Designer Shirley Pierson, Lighting Designer Cat Tate Starmer, Sound Designer Drew Levy, Original Music and Music Direction by Golden Howl, Dialect and Voice Coach David Huber and Production Stage Manager Jess Slocum.
“Hurricane Diane” will be on the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre Stage at the Old Globe until March 8th. Ticket prices start at $30.00 and can be purchased at www.TheOldGlobe.org or call 619-234-5623.