“The Maids” has unique all-male cast as Jean Genet intended

The Maids at New Stage Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield.

Pittsfield, MA: From the outset it was Jean Genet’s wish that his play The Maids would be cast with men, but in its first production in 1947, Louis Jouvet, the director, refused to do so and cast three women instead. The New Stage Theatre Company’s newest production will finally give us a chance to enjoy this play as the author intended.

It is interesting to speculate as to the reasons. Written in 1945, The Maids drew its plot from a notorious 1933 murder in France where the Papin sisters, who worked as maids in the household of a well-off family, brutally murdered their mistress and her daughter. The play delves into the complex psychological relationship between the sisters.

For some reason it brings to mind the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Of course that cult classic had not even been thought of yet. Still it does not take a great leap of imagination to envision the extra dimension of dramatic tension having men play these horrific women’s roles en travesti.

Genet’s original intent is now carried out. Opening Friday October 15 and running three weekends, local audiences will have the opportunity to see The Maids the way Genet wanted it to be.

As way of rationale, Thomas Gruenewald, the director, says that Genet wasn’t interested in the story of the Papin sisters so much, but rather in the exploration of the sexual, political and economic conditions that could have caused so brutal an incident.

Gruenewald, who directed the Broadway production of Take Me Along, as well as Shakespeare, opera and contemporary musicals, welcomed the chance to tackle Genet. Inspired by the complexity of the script and the desire to see it done the way Genet wanted it, he and Nicki Wilson, the producer, set about to find the actors who would be right to play these characters.

Daniel Osman, the owner of the Dreamaway Lodge and formerly a full-time actor has stepped into the role of Solange, the difficult and controlling sister, while David Anderson, the Founding Director of Walking the Dog Theatre Company and an actor from Hudson, New York plays Claire the younger sister. Ken De Loreto rises to the challenge of playing the maids’ mistress – Madame.

Genet, who had a criminal background and spent many years in prison, eventually became championed by the French Intelligentsia, but never lost his fascination with and participation in the sexual and criminal world. The Maids reflects many issues that he grappled with during his life.

The Maids runs October 15th to the 31st, every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. After each Sunday matinee there will be a talkback with the director and the actors. NEW STAGE Performing Arts Center is located at 55 North Street in Pittsfield, MA. just above the Beacon Cinema. All tickets are $20. For more information or to make a reservation call 413-418-0999 or go to newstageperformingarts.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s