‘The Maids’ peels the onion at A Noise Within

Review by John K. Adams

What if, through an accident of birth, you were assigned a role that you could neither change nor escape? For example, you awaken daily to appear in an ugly “reality show.” You choke on unglamorous lines, but quitting is unthinkable.

Jean Genet’s The Maids, written in post-WWII France, depicts such a scenario, without the cameras, but with the characters submitting to all the expectations imposed by society’s educational, political and other power structures. It ain’t pretty. But it may feel eerily familiar to some.

The play exposes the characters’ roles in life. Two sisters shift their identities from maid to Madame to director and to audience as they playact through their lives and pretend they can control outcomes. With ever shifting roles, does a core identity exist? Where?

Are you the “other?” Or am I?

The Madame calls the maids her family. But the power difference is brutal, as generously granted gifts may be capriciously snatched away moments later.

Director Stephanie Shroyer says, “This play questions the idea of ownership and examines the very fickle nature of how power is decided.”

Who assigns the roles we play in life? What thoughtless act set our course, long before we knew the stakes? And once that die is cast, can it be miraculously snatched back?

Exploding expectations, Genet rejected all the roles assigned to him, from thief to saint. His art demands that we be wary of unconsciously accepting imposed roles.

Director Shroyer states, “The artist must work at that point between audience acceptance and rejection so as to generate the necessity for a conversation.”

The Maids will get you talking.

“The Maids” is staged at A Noise Within, located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, through November 6. Contact A Noise Within via phone at (626) 356-3100 or online at ANoiseWithin.org.

Note: This review appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, OCTOBER 13, 2016.

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