Review of Hurricane Diane at New York Theatre Workshop

  • Our critic's rating:
    February 25, 2019
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    Hurricane Diane has landed in town with a bang, and I’d advise you NOT to evacuate, but to go get wet and windblown! She’s landed at the New York Theatre Workshop in Madeleine George’s bitingly funny play (co-produced by WP Theater) about the pissed-off god Dionysus who is living as a permaculture gardener in Vermont named Diane (Becca Blackwell).

    Faced with the prospect of spending eternity on Mount Olympus with nobody to worship her, Diane has decided to take matters into her own hands and save the earth at the eleventh hour. She naturally chooses a cul-de-sac in Red Bank, NJ to begin her plan of re-initiating humans into the practice of revering both her and nature. She needs four women to form a good cult and the four women who live here are all friends who consult each other about everything, have identical floorplans and all have gardens. Diane figures this will be an easy start to her plan to reverse the seeds of ruin.

    But Diane has been rusticating in Vermont for too long in a consensus-based lesbian commune with curbside composting. And she has not been dealing with the housewives of New Jersey. Although Beth (Kate Wetherhead), abandoned by her husband with a yard that has been described as a “hayfield” may be a sure thing, Diane finds her seduction techniques may have become a little rusty over the millennia.

    The pull and tug between the mortal women whose core beliefs about themselves are being challenged by the determined deity make for a hell of a bumpy ride. But with George’s crisp, bulls-eyed dialog, director Leigh Silverman’s faultless pacing, and the spectacular comic timing of the uber talented cast, all the audience has to do is sit back and enjoy themselves.

    Each new scene and character makes us salivate for the next, and we aren’t disappointed. The second scene in Hurricane Diane when Diane meets the first housewife, Carol (Mia Barron) is one of the best character studies I’ve ever witnessed. Mia Barron, if she had no other appearance in the play (which, thankfully, she does) would deserve an award for that scene alone. Barron absolutely nails the complicated and contradictory character of Carol. A rigid woman whose job is “in Compliance” at a pharmaceutical company, she’s married to a man who hasn’t managed to catch the right train home from the city at night in months. Her one passion is clipping inspirational photos for her dream garden from HGTV Magazine. The only problem is, she has a brown thumb and doesn’t really like to go outdoors. She is hilariously funny, completely invested, absolutely recognizable and totally sympathetic. Brava.

    However, don’t think that Hurricane Diane is all style and no substance. Yes, it’s exceedingly funny and acerbic, but there’s meat in that matter and a sting in those barbs because the subject matter is very real – what human beings are doing to destroy the planet. And don’t think that George is a rabid one-sided campaigner against humanity. She has enormous insight and sympathy for her human characters, even while recognizing their flaws. 

    I must admit the resolution to Hurricane Diane surprised me. For which I am always grateful. The play is having a very limited run – through March 10th only. I suggest you book your tickets immediately.

    (Photo by Joan Marcus)

    "Good news: God exists, and she’s a “masculine-of-center” “butch charm factory” named Diane. That, at any rate, is the setup for Hurricane Diane, an astonishing new play by Madeleine George that whirls ancient myth, lesbian pulp, ecological thriller and The Real Housewives of Monmouth County into a perfect storm of timely tragicomedy."
    Jesse Green for New York Times

    "In one way, George and director Leigh Silverman have pulled off a miracle: They’ve made a funny play about a depressing subject. But we judge miracles by how they end, and at close of Hurricane Diane, the water that had turned into wine has turned into water again."
    Helen Shaw for Time Out New York

    "Leigh Silverman’s direction makes sure that George’s biggest laughs come from the sprite one-liners, as well as the many things the housewives don’t tell each other to avoid hurt feelings. The subtext is often sublime and comes through loud and clear."
    Robert Hofler for The Wrap

    "Hurricane Diane, which makes oblique references to Hurricane Sandy, purports to deal with issues of environmentalism and climate change. But those important topics quickly fall by the wayside in favor of strained absurdism. Even worse, the play commits the cardinal sin of somehow making Dionysus seem utterly boring."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter