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BWW Review: A Godly Intervention To Stop Climate Change In Madeleine George's Comedy HURRICANE DIANE


Pulitzer finalist Madeleine George describes the title character of her decidedly weird little comedy about the danger of climate change, Hurricane Diane, as "a butch charm factory." Becca Blackwell sure fits that bill perfectly, delivering the 90-minute play's exposition monologue with the engaging flair of an ace stand-up comic nailing the punch lines in a tight three minute set.

Hurricane Diane
Becca Blackwell (Photo: Joan Marcus)

"Recognize me?", Diane asks at the outset. "No? God of agriculture, wine and song? It's cool, it's been a while."

Better known as Dionysus (or, in some circles, Bacchus or Bromius), it's been way past a couple of millennia since her heyday, when her name "was on the lips and tongue of every frustrated housewife in the greater Mediterranean," as she would charge into towns calling for women to partake in her rowdy bacchanalias.

These days, however, she lives a quieter life running a landscaping business outside of Burlington, Vermont, focused on sustainability and small-scale permaculture.

But with humans rapidly destroying the planet, Diane realizes it's time for a major comeback. ("If I don't step in now, the glaciers are gonna melt and the permafrost is gonna thaw and fast-forward a hundred years and there won't be a single human left on the planet to worship me!") The plan is to start small with a cult of four suburban women living in a Red Bank, New Jersey cul-de-sac; seducing them into allowing her to landscape all of their property into one sustainable unit, which will sprout into similar units taking over the world.

Designer Rachel Hauck supplies an efficient kitchen set that represents the individual homes of all four of Diane's targets. But there's immediate friction with Carol (Mia Barron), a pharmaceutical executive who doesn't like budging from the very specific ideas of what she wants, which are inspired from Home and Garden's HGTV Magazine. Diane strikes a better connection with Renee (Michelle Beck), one of the magazine's editors.

Hurricane Diane
Michelle Beck, Danielle Skraastad, Mia Barron
and Kate Wetherhead (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Invaluable stage comic Kate Wetherhead plays the sweet, but depressed Beth, who's dealing with being abandoned by her husband. Beth desires "the kinds of flowers that attract fairies, so I can lay my head among the mosses while they sing me to sleep."

Danielle Skraastad delivers a knockout performance as Jersey-Italian Pam, getting big laughs with her brash attitude and thick accent. Her description of the frequency with which she and her husband have sex is hilarious and if there was an Obie Award for Comical Reaction, she'd be a front runner for what she does with a line George gives her about her print dress.

Even at ninety minutes, the episodic plot gets a little thin, though director Leigh Silverman has her cast sharply playing the entertaining dialogue. There's a major shift in tone for the play's final moments, which is reasonable, but a little drawn out.

But these are minor irritations within an enjoyable piece about an important subject. It's nice to get some good laughs out of the climate change issue that aren't dumb remarks made by elected officials that don't understand it.

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From This Author Michael Dale