by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Providence College’s department of theater dance, and film (TDF) kicked off the Spring semester with a production of The Maids by Jean Genet. Translated from French by Bernard Frechtman, the show debuted in the Angell Blackfriars Theatre during the Jan. 23-26 weekend.
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Erin Joy Schmidt, the production also featured several guest artists. Sarah Markley, Steve Shapiro, Michael Clark Wonson, and Chelsea Kerl respectively conducted set design, sound design, lighting design, and costume design.
One of the most striking elements of The Maids is the fact that the play only contains three characters, which notably captured the interest of the audience. Set in an urban 1920s bedroom, the show consisted of only one act. The sparse but insightful cast features Grace Dolan ’20 as Claire, Sydney Cahill ’22 as Solange, and Halle Pratt ’22 as Madame.
The production follows two sisters, Claire and Solange, who are employed as maids by the affluent Madame. They spend countless hours role-playing with one another, envisioning the death of their employer and the days when they may finally be free. The two characters plot to put sleeping pills in Madame’s tea once she returns home.
The Maids offers an intense experience from start to finish. “The only way Claire and Solange have been able to carry on, day after day, is through their ceremony, an imaginative ritual these sisters have created where they take on the role of their employer and act out their fantasies in her boudoir. Throughout the play, Claire and Solange use their act as a means to escape their lives and live in the fantasy world of their dreams,” writes Schmidt in her director’s note.
After the initial exchange between Claire and Solange, Madame makes her entrance. She initially appears hopeless, largely due to the fact that Monsieur, her husband, is in prison. Madame briefly gifts her prized red dress to Claire and a fur cape to Solange. However, she soon learns that Monsieur has been released on bond and exits without drinking the poisoned tea.
Once Madame exits, the role-play between Solange and Claire only further intensifies. Culminating in a purposefully confusing end for both characters, Claire ultimately drinks the cold tea that was left by Madame in a symbolic effort to signify that Madame is dead. In reality, however, Claire has committed suicide. Solange then appears alone, delivering a monologue in an address to a series of imaginary characters from the inspector to Monsieur and the hangman.
While the ending is intentionally ambiguous, such a conclusion certainly adds to the illusory sentiments that are present throughout the production as a whole. Although The Maids was much smaller in scale than other productions put on by TDF, the cast provided a worthwhile show for all who experienced it.