The jovial, welcoming and macho Diane (Becca Blackwell), who stands in for Dionysus, explains that “Gods don’t die, they just change form,” justifying “her” existence during a lengthy, opening monologue. And given “her” anachronistic presence, Diane also says, “You don’t know what time it is on the cosmic clock” before notifying us that it’s ”eleven fucking forty-five,” after telling us that we’ve been “despoiling the green earth” with our “misdeeds” for hundreds of years.
Clad in a god-like white robe with gold trim, and with locks of thick blonde curly hair, Diane reveals an androgynous nature after dropping the robe and seen wearing a plaid work shirt, tan shorts, thick wool socks, and large boots. (The always apt costumes have been designed by Kaye Voyce.)
Then come the four housewives, who Diane proceeds to transform by systematically sleeping with each of them in turn. They include the pert and self-assured Carol (Mia Barron), the feisty Pam (Danielle Skraastad)–who could have been a character on The Sopranos. With her squeaky, irritating voice, Beth (Kate Wetherhead) says, “I hurt myself meditating the other day.” Finally, there’s Renee (Michelle Beck), who comes across as the most sensible of them all.
With only ten minutes to go in the 90-minute, intermissionless piece, the floor almost literally falls out from under Diane, as the set pulls apart and this rather earthy God says, “Women, let me hear you howl,” as Pam, Renee and Beth start swaying and chanting, “We must dance to be free.” Carol, for her part, becomes stronger than Diane, telling her “I am the storm,” as Barron becomes nothing less than fierce.
Somewhere between a morality tale and a soap opera, nothing about Hurricane Diane feels real. This is in spite of the highly realistic kitchen, designed by Rachel Hauck, which serves as the set for each of the wives we meet.
Whatever problems one has with the play, the cast cannot be faulted. Blackwell is a towering if hulking Diane, Barron and Skraastad are both highly stylized as, respectively, Carol and Pam, Wetherhead a willowy Beth, and Beck an elegant Renee–until she loses her cool.
When you read something–whether an article, an essay, a novel, a biography, or even a play–you do so at your own pace, which enhances understanding. When seeing a play, the pace is at the director’s discretion; and in the case of Hurricane Diane, director Leigh Silverman has whipped up a speedy storm, which interferes with our ability to follow the story. But then again, as already mentioned, the story is far too complicated to follow or apprehend. It spins out of control and over our heads.
Hurricane Diane (through March 24, 2019)
New York Theatre Workshop, a co-production with WP Theater
New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-780-9037 or visit http://www.nytw.org
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission