Madeleine George Modernizes Myth of Dionysius
by Robert M. Gardner
Hilarious Stacy Ross makes an earthy, sarcastic Dionysius whose methods make us question her ethics. Is she an evil temptress or a crusading champion of the environment? Using alcohol and mind-blowing orgasms, Diane hopes to tackle climate change in a small cul-de-sac in wealthy suburban New Jersey, of all places!
Diane (as she prefers to be called) appears as a scheming, butch gardener intent on seducing the four housewives of Monmouth County. Starting with a clueless Carol (energetic Rebecca Schweitzer), armed with her House & Garden catalog, striving to imitate H&G’s photos of standardized “curbside appeal.”
Diane banters sexually with Carol who provokes laughter with her weak attempts to avoid Diane’s advances.
Costume Designer Brooke Jennings fashions superbly witty costumes that highlight each woman. Diane first appears in Greek robes, changing to Carhart suspender overalls. The disguised eternal goddess boldly flirts, armed with a persuasive tongue. One by one, these four suburban housewives fall for her!
I love playwright Madeline George’s reimagining of the god Dionysus, returning to Earth to punish erring mortals who are killing the plants and the planet she protects. I was a bit confused by the way she switches from witty lesbian jokes to painstakingly detailed directions on making your yard eco-friendly.
Despite this double message, George provides a wonderfully wicked and delicious romp with the goddess of wine and sexuality.
Unsuccessful at first with Carol, Diane turns to forceful magazine editor Renee (elegant Leontyne Mbele-Mbong). Renee reveals to her friends that she is taken with Diane’s permaculture plans. Much to Carol’s consternation, Renee even offers to feature Diane’s work in H&G.
The group is joined by vivacious, recently separated Beth (expressive Gianna DiGregorio Rivera), who becomes easy prey for rapacious Diane. As the Goddess of Gardens and Orgies, Diane plants the phallic-fruited Pau-Pau trees everywhere, scandalizing the neighborhood. She brings back wildlife into the gardens, as well. But there is no love in her seductions—it’s wild sexual humor that ends with a comic blast!
In her last conquest, Diane confronts brash Pam (feisty Luisa Sermol) who simply adores all things the garden mural at the local Italian deli. She wants Diane to install a traditional Italian-themed garden—which is certainly not in Diane’s plan to save the planet one yard at a time.
Because I found myself Diane’s ally in her crusade, , I became a cheerleader in her sexual encounters, rationalizing them as for a good cause.
At 90 minutes, “Hurricane Diane” moves along briskly and leaves us wanting more of Diane and the ladies—another resounding success for Aurora Theatre.
Hurricane Diane” by Madeline George, directed by Jennifer King, scenic design by Kate Boyd, costume design by Brooke Jennings, at Aurora Theatre, Berkeley, California. Info: AuroraTheatre.org – to July 16, 2023.
Cast: Rebecca Schweitzer, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Stacy Ross, Gianna DiGregorio Rivera, and Luisa Sermol.
Banner photo: Stacy Ross (Diane). Photo by Kevin Berne