The Maids

“The Maids,” Camelot Artists Productions in association with
Vargo Productions
a kate west review
at Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254. S. Robertson, Beverly Hills
(323) 650-8729

For those a little rusty in Theater 101, Jean Genet was an internationally prominent French author famous for exposing the absurdity of life and emotion in his writing. The latest production of “The Maids” now playing at the Beverly Hills Playhouse is no exception. Genet’s own life defined contradiction. Publicly charged as a common thief, yet his real identity that of a brilliant author, his play also reflects that same dichotomy in life. Solange and Claire are two maids who take turns role-playing as mistress and servant. Genet’s own preference was to have men play all the parts in order to emphasize how illusionary one’s perception of life can be.

Director Maria Vargo takes the conventional approach and casts all women. She has the lead role as Solange, the older sister and the mastermind of the pair. The fact that they are sisters is yet another merging of identity; that of mistress and servant and sisters; Genet confuses roles by having the maids act out their daily game of pretend at the top of the play, surprising us when the supposed mistress suddenly turns back into a maid. Prevalent throughout is a deep self hatred and anger prompting the two sisters to plot their mistress’ demise. They hate and love her, pretend to be her, thus hating and loving themselves. An intensely introspective and uncomfortable work, “The Maids” forces the viewer to look into the deeply dark recesses of the human consciousness and soul.

Vargo plays an intensely determined Solange and holds her own opposite the irrepressible Madame, played by the delightful Natalia Magni. She gives a complex performance and is especially moving during her finally monologue, although Magni has a bit more of a naturally graceful stage presence. Stacy Stewart as Claire is the weaker link, her intentionally bad French accent as the pretend Madame a little grating and her performance stiff.

The audience is captured throughout with Vargas’ solid directing and pulled into the cold horror as the sisters suffer dire consequences from their plot to kill Madame. Solange, the supposed braver of the two actually does nothing while her more delicate sister actively displays courage in a final desperate act. The underlying homosexual and sadism-masochism may be a little intense for some patrons, but those familiar with Genet will find it par for the course. On the whole, the production may have been more impressive with a stronger commitment from some of the actors.

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