Culture Magazine

Review: The Maids (Oracle Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The Maids (Oracle Theatre)   
The Maids 

Written Jean Genet
Directed by Ben Fuchsen
at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway (map)
thru April 21  |  tickets: FREE  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Disturbing in the best way


Review: The Maids (Oracle Theatre)


Oracle Theatre presents


The Maids

Review by K.D. Hopkins

I do not presume that everyone has heard of Jean Genet and how his life’s journey is reflected in his literature and dramatic work. I discovered him when I discovered Kerouac, Henry Miller, Nin, and Hubert Selby when I was in my teens. His depictions of class war and survival are classified as Absurdist, but there is a full measure of the Grotesque for both the bourgeoisie and the criminal classes. Genet was an Atheist, a male prostitute, thief, and affiliated with the Black Panthers at the time of his death in 1986. The Maids was first performed in 1947 and I dare say a broad disclosure of Genet’s views on class and justice.

Oracle Theatre does a fine job of staging The Maids with casting and stellar acting. Solange and Claire are two servants employed by a woman known only as Madame. Solange is played by Rich Logan and Claire by John Arthur Lewis. This casting is brilliant, and not because it is considered non-traditional casting. Logan and Lewis are more than two men in drag. Both actors infuse the characters with a glorious psychosis that is darkly comic and yet evokes sympathy. Solange and Claire are sisters who have been at the mercy of Madame for many years. They concoct and reenact an elaborate blackmail and murder scheme born out of servitude and sexual frustration.

This play premiered on the heels of post war France when the class war of centuries came to the fore again. The bottom class was bulging and the malaise of loss and resentment weighed heavily in a culture purported to be of an overall elite nature. Solange and Claire plan to send Madame’s lover to Devil’s Island in Guyana and to poison their mistress with Phenobarbital. The sister’s plan for Madame’s ignominious demise simmers throughout the play with both Solange and Claire taking turns as doomed Madame. They wear her clothes and provide what is presumed to be a caricature of how she orders them about and lives to grind them beneath her custom made heels.

Review: The Maids (Oracle Theatre)

Madame is gloriously brought to life by Sasha Grishkov. Madame enters her boudoir after the humiliation of seeing her lover carted off by the gendarme and it is dark comic gold. Genet’s work is rich with schadenfreude – revelry in the demise of another. Grishkov’s aristocratic carriage and crazed demeanor are a perfect portrayal of Madame’s louche lifestyle.

The three actors on stage together seem suspended in individual reality on separate consciousness planes. The barbiturate-laced tea is a comic touchstone lending a farcical shading to the denouement. The sister’s barely concealed contempt seethes as Madame is concerned only with her social standing. The looks exchanged by Solange and Claire are priceless as Madame bequeaths the fine attire that they have worn behind her back.

The other components of this production are essential to the excellent portrayal of Genet’s work. The set is a gorgeous array of texture and olfactory recall through color. The proscenium is literally a mound of fabric in crushed velvet, iridescent taffeta, and sheer negligees. The colors are a disturbing blend of Fellini pink and sordid red tones. Boa feathers fly about and the entry to Madame’s boudoir, a deliberately short red door. When Solange mentions the flowers and mimosa there is the intermingling of taste and smell to cover decay and hypocrisy. The spare dissonant piano soundtrack is disturbing in the best way. The music accompaniment is perfect for this Danse Macabre. Excellent!

Oracle Theatre is public access theater. They do not charge admission and their mission is to make good theater accessible to everyone. It is a noble and worthy mission with the production chops to back up the talk.


Rating: ★★★½



The Maids continues through April 21st at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00pm.  Seating is free, and it is recommended to arrive early to make sure you get a seat.  More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission)

Review: The Maids (Oracle Theatre)

All photos by Ben Fuchsen



Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog