[This review appeared in Variety the week of April 11th.]
Jean Giraudoux may have been thinking of the Third Reich when he wrote this piece in Vichy France in 1943, but like his contemporary, George Orwell, he could not have been more prescient if he had visited the future with a time machine: By setting the story in present-day NYC, and with only the slightest tweaking of the script—a topical phrase here, a familiar song lyric there—Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC) director Israel Hicks hits upon a gold mine of satire and social criticism that would make Michael Moore jealous.
It may have seemed whimsical to his general public in the mid-Twentieth Century when the playwright spoofed greedy oilmen who wanted to drill a well in the Louvre, but seeing this contemporary version in light of the now endless world war for vanishing petroleum resources—while Iraq and the Alaska Wildlife Refuge fill the headlines—one can only gasp at the compelling coincidences.
If a wide-eyed web blogger or irreverent documentary filmmaker had fashioned the first scene, in which the CEO, Senator, Geological Engineer, and Broker get together for a power lunch in a sidewalk café in midtown Manhattan and plan on blowing up a building to expedite permits for drilling, a significant portion of the audience could have been expected to get up and walk out, writing off the such insinuations to a "conspiracy theorist talking to aliens on the grassy knoll," as the corporate press has branded 9-11 dissenters, but given the age of the script, only gaping jaws and nervous laughter were evident.
|(L to R) Jamie Horton (Senator),|
John Hutton (CEO), and
Randy Moore (Broker)
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Recapturing the gaiety of Giraudoux's Paris of the mind, helmer Hicks surrounds these culprits and fills the in-the-round Space Theatre with a panoply of urban fauna—a street singer, flower seller, deaf mute, street vendor, waiter, cop, break dancer, bicycle messenger, bus boy, waitress, derelict, rag picker, and sewer man—worthy of even the most hardened Gotham people watcher's admiration.
As lunch winds down, into this rich mix of arrogance and humility regally steps the homeless, yet revered Countess Aurelia, Madwoman of Tribeca, calling for her daily bag of scraps to feed the neighborhood's stray cats. Commanding the attention of her gathered minions, who beseech her with concerns over the dastardly plot of the oil barons, Aurelia nonchalantly assures them that she shall take care of this trifling matter.
|Kathy Brady as Princess Aurelia,|
Madwoman of Tribeca
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Mainstay DCTC comedienne, Kathleen M. Brady—resplendent in a coordinated wardrobe of second-hand treasures and choice rags, not to mention her otherworldly feather boa—uses her mellifluous charms to effortlessly navigate the fine line between delusion and inspiration, allowing us no difficulties when she offhandedly remarks that dispensing with the New World Order is "nothing ... that a sensible woman can't set ... right in the course of an afternoon."
Brady is surrounded by nearly a score of longtime company stalwarts whose performances are commensurately well-defined. Of particular delight are John Hutton's smarmy and heartless CEO, Randy Moore's gleefully manipulative Broker, Keith L. Hatten's eloquent Rag Picker, Robin Moseley's petulant Constance, the Madwoman of Upper East Side, and Charles Weldon's irrepressible Street Singer.
|Annette Helde as|
of Upper West Side
Photo: Terry Shapiro
When the trial of the plutocrats ends with the Madwomen finding them guilty of worshipping the almighty dollar, and the CEOs, Geological Engineers, Lawyers, and their gold diggers are subsequently baited by Aurelia to her underground lair and led to their just reward in Hades, we are happy to join in with Weldon and his cohorts as they exit to a round from Bob Marley's anthem of the dispossessed, "Stand Up For Your Rights."
The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of The Madwoman runs through April 30th. 303-893-4100.