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The Maids at Common Ground

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Jean Genet's dark classic, The Maids, is a twisted, psychosexual critique of class—and a perversely perfect accompaniment, in its way, for the current conversation on increasing economic disparity in the United States.

Genet based his drama on the exploits of Lea and Christine Papin, servant sisters who murdered Léonie and Genevieve Lancelin in France in 1933. According to historical accounts, the Papins apparently had a sexual relationship with one another; in Genet's sadomasochistic interpretation of that relationship, one sister and then the other impersonates the hated Madame of the house—illustrating the pattern by which victims can internalize and then become abusers themselves.

Though Genet intended the work to be performed by men, director Rachel Klem opts in this Small Series production for an all-female cast. There's a hypnotic chemistry between Mary Guthrie and Amanda Hahn as sisters Claire and Solange as they lay hands on Genet's text and one another. Klem modulates the tensions throughout the work, nimbly directing these characters along the precipice of madness until they go over it. Though Sheryl Scott seems a bit young as their Madame, her vanity, self-absorption and the shallowness of her solicitude are all carefully sculpted.

The proverbial one percent owe it to themselves to observe what happens when people are allowed to view luxury, but are never permitted to realize it for themselves. The rest of us can revel in a classic theatrical gauntlet, run well, over dangerous terrain.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Rotten in denmark...."

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