The Trib’s Take on the ‘Titillating’ Maids

 

Tension crackles between Georgia Mallory Guy as Solange and Katrina Stevenson as Claire in Jobsite’s production of “The Maids” at the Straz Center. CRAWFORD LONGBy John W. Allman
Tribune correspondent
Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – Solange and Claire, two sisters working as chamber maids, live in a tenuous reality, a place where their only comfort comes within the pampered confines of a boudoir, a sanctuary where they can secretly enact fantasies and plot revenge.

Over the course of 90 electric, mesmerizing minutes, the sisters engage in a series of increasingly dark exchanges, a ritualistic role-playing where each assumes the other’s identity, one girl always taking the dominant position of Madame, their haughty employer, whose backhanded compliments sting like the rake of barbed wire across tender flesh.

In the hands of a less disciplined director, “The Maids,” a play by Jean Genet, the famed French novelist, playwright and poet, could be reduced to little more than hollow titillation, the deeper context of Genet’s blistering dialogue overshadowed by an exultation of sexual taboos.

But David Jenkins, producing artistic director and co-founder of Jobsite Theater, knows exactly what he’s doing. He thrusts the audience into the unwitting role of co-conspirator and voyeur, and allows his magnificent trio of actors to shine.

90 electric, mesmerizing minutes … Guy and Stevenson have an undeniable chemistry … it lingers long after the last light enveloping Solange goes dark.

Fans of French existentialism and psychosexual melodrama should devour “The Maids” and likely return for a second serving as Jobsite’s production continues through May 22 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

Jenkins’ masterfully underplays the crackling tension between Georgia Mallory Guy’s Solange and Katrina Stevenson’s Claire, opting to let the audience’s interpretation of the sisters’ lingering caresses and bated breath slowly ratchet the air inside the intimate Shimberg Playhouse until it is steaming with palpable desire and mounting dread.

Guy and Stevenson have an undeniable chemistry that cannot be artificially manufactured. Guy’s eyes, in particular, emote with urgency, longing and disgust, often in the same moment. And she and Stevenson make the most of the sparse stage, adorned with a poster bed, dresser, vanity and two wardrobes, often stopping to stare directly out at the audience, tempting spectators to succumb to their sinister charms.

At its core, “The Maids” is a multi-layered examination of class structure, of personal longing, of pent-up resentment and blooming mental illness. The line between fantasy and reality isn’t blurred but erased entirely within the first 15 minutes as the sisters conspire to poison their Madame after deliberately undermining her dalliance with a suitor.

They speak in cleverly coded safe words — reminding each other of “limits” and “boundaries” and not to get “carried away” — while imagining life outside the cramped attic quarters of the hired help.

When their employer finally returns to learn that her paramour has recently been released from jail, unaware that it was Claire who anonymously penned a letter that resulted in his arrest, Genet’s razor-sharp dialogue explodes in a torrent of jagged asides that allow Roxanne Fay as Madame to employ a hypnotic mix of sugary malice and caustic affection while never crossing over into camp.

In its final moments, Jenkins wisely surrenders the stage to Guy as she delivers a beautiful soliloquy full of defiance and naiveté, the tragic certainty of her actions seemingly exposed even as the audience is left to ponder whether any of it is actually true or real.

That’s the power of “The Maids” — it lingers long after the last light enveloping Solange goes dark, nothing but Genet’s deviant, deliciously ambiguous construct left to fuel spirited debate.

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Recent Posts

Categories

What Do You Think?

Technical Director Contact

Questions for our Technical Director.

Name

Email

Message

Staged Readings Contact

To perform in a reading, have your script considered, or have other Staged Readings questions.

Name

Email

Message

Attach files (5MB limit)

Artistic Director Contact

Get in touch with Artistic Director David M. Jenkins for all business and production related questions and touring information.

Name

Email

Message

Development Contact

Donating to or volunteering for Galas and other fundraisers, plus any other grant or sponsorship questions.

Name

Email

Message

Auditions Contact

Audition questions, scheduling, resumes and headshots. Also, read about our auditions for more info.

Name

Email

Message

Attach Headshots/Resumes (5MB limit)

Donations & Support Contact

Be a Jobsite sponsor, send us something from our wishlist, advertising questions, etc.

Name

Email

Message

Tickets Contact

General questions and information regarding tickets, group rates, discounts, etc.

Name

Email

Message

Include an Attachment (Limit: 3Mb)

Contact the Webmaster

Email our Online Producer regarding website questions, broken links and general kudos for all around groovy site design.

Name

Email

Message