Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility and religious ecstasy, has taken the form of a woman named Diane and returned to save the Earth from itself in the regional premier of Madeleine George’s Hurricane Diane.
In celebration of Dallas Pride Week, Echo Theatre is presenting the play Thursday through Saturday nights until Sept. 22 at the Bath House Cultural Center in White Rock Lake Park.
The play runs about 90 minutes and is presented without intermission, but the time speeds by with its smart humor and skilled cast of women.
On its surface, the play offers a wry send-up of family life in middle-class suburbia, but beneath its witty exterior, the play triumphs in its recognition that modern society has strayed from the spiritual connection we once had with the planet and the people in it.
Though the play does not strictly follow all elements of a Greek play, there is a sense of adherence to the three unities — time, place and action — as the play follows Diane’s attempt to unite the women residing in a New Jersey cul-de-sac in a backyard bacchanal intending to prevent the great storm that is rapidly approaching.
When it comes to the unity of place, the cookie-cutter design of suburban homes allows for a minimal set with the homes of each woman blending into one another with only a kitchen towel used to distinguish one from the other.
The play opens with Diane doing the work reserved for the chorus in Greek plays, providing the audience with a rundown of what the ancient god has been up to over the past few thousand years as people began trading religious ecstasy for ecstasy knock-offs.
The ancient god’s chosen profession in her attempt to bring back the religious ecstasy of old? Why, landscape artist, of course.
You see, one of modern society’s biggest ecstasy knock-offs in her estimation is in the perfectly manicured lawn, and the solution is to dig up these perceptions of perfection and replace them with permacultures filled with pawpaw trees and other native plant life.
This idea comes as quite the shock to Carol, the all-too proper workingwoman who has called upon Diane in the hopes that she can boost the curb appeal of her lawn and make it look like one of the glossy images she has seen in HGTV magazine.
Needless to say, the god of the grape harvest has nothing for HGTV magazine or the idea that Earth needs anything in the way of curb appeal.
And while Carol cannot bear the thought of her perfect lawn becoming an all-natural habitat filled with strange trees and insects, her neighbors — Renee, Beth and Pam — become captivated with the idea of getting back to nature.
Cindee Mayfield’s brilliant in-your-face portrayal of the wisecracking Diane is highlighted by her sharp tone and always animated movement.
Angela Davis brings a high-energy performance to Carol Fleischer, perfectly capturing the uptight and repressed nature of someone working in the compliance department of a pharmaceutical company.
As for the neighbors, Stephanie Butler’s humorous depiction of Pam is marked by a thick Jersey accent that is abrasive in all the right ways as her character refuses to let Diane get a word in edgewise.
Whitney Holotik finds the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy in her performance as Beth, whose spacey absentmindedness comes from a life of always trying to please and coming up short.
Finally, Renee, Octavia Y. Thomas gets plenty of laughs as she navigates the role of college free-spirit turned editor of Carol’s beloved HGTV magazine.
The play is recommended for mature audiences only with its sexual themes and adult language as Diane attempts to seduce the women to perform her Dionysian ritual to prevent the coming storm.
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Adding to the brilliant performance of the entire cast, the play makes use of impeccable lighting and sound effects to add emphasis and build tension as the storm makes its final approach.
At the end of the evening, audiences will walk away from Hurricane Diane with a renewed sense for the importance of the earth and each other with love and respect.
Indeed, there is still importance in the power of myth.