In Madeleine George’s 2019 play “Hurricane Diane,” now produced by Theater Wit in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the Greek god Dionysus arrives in New Jersey to do some mischief. The deity has a useful disguise: she takes the form of a lesbian landscaper who talks about a very good game about sustainable horticulture.
George satirizes middle-class suburban life in the optimistically-named Garden State, a constant target of progressive urban elites who like to go to postmodern rooms like this. Along the way, George pokes fun at climate change denial (as evidenced by water-guzzling lawns), neighbor rivalries, and the old standby of sexual repression, present in every kitchen in every house with blueprints. identical floor. , a useful theatrical device when you want Dionysus to be able to go from house to house.
Not that the visuals here are boring: Diana, played by the highly skilled Kelli Simpkins, can transform ordinary backyards into realms that look like something out of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
You’ll notice from the above that I resisted this piece a bit, mostly because I was never convinced in director Jeremy Wechsler’s production that any of the women lucky enough to be visited by the gardening deity could exist (Simpkins’ Diana is, in fact, the most believable and well-rounded character). One of the conditions of effective satire is that there must be some sort of normative basis from which things go wrong. You don’t really feel that here, maybe an issue with the production more than the room. And, let’s be honest, middle-aged women in New Jersey are a pretty easy target, despite George’s impressive writing skills.
Admittedly, the staging of Theater Wit (which features Jazmín Corona, Aneisa Hicks and Lori Myers) is ambitious and entertaining: despite the limits of a black box theatre, Wechsler and scenographer Joseph Schermoly embark on the task of employing all the talents of George’s famously exuberant theatricality; flowers and plants are blooming. And the scenes between Myers and Simpkins have a comedic edge.
But at the start of the performance I saw, at least, I felt like the production was a bit too busy and too big for the confined space, and the humans involved were still finding their way. The show needs to emotionally land, as does Theater Wit’s fine production of that same playwright’s excellent earlier work “Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England.” Hurricanes don’t meander, of course, and the hard landing is what’s missing here.
Chris Jones is a reviewer for the Tribune.
Review: “Hurricane Diane” (2.5 stars)
When: Until July 31
Where: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Tickets: $25 to $48 at 773-975-8150 and www.theatrewit.org