I guess you might say that if one seat is broken out of the fewer than fifty at the McCadden Theatre, a few small improvements need to be made. Similar small improvments could be made to The Madwoman of Chaillot, the funny and tragic post-Katrina play that's running at the McCadden through December 17. The play needs a little tightening up to keep the flow and a little sanding down to even out the mixed performances.
The Madwoman got a late start and only a bit more than half of the seats were filled as the lights came up. Beginning on a positive note with a street singer (Patricia Harrison), the opening created an expection of being transported into the musical world of New Orleans.
Anthony Barnao was at the helm with visible and unquestionable direction, the first budgeted stage production for Sphere. It was very clear that this was to be a contemporized version for the present day Administration. With the great set design,and a second act staging transformation quite believable that I, in short, give kudos to Victoria Profitt for a job well done.
I am sure the audience felt that the performance was vaguely familiar as comedies go, as it is satire, ala post World War II. Although Giraudoux himself wrote "The Madwoman of Chaillot" in France, just before his death, at the time of the Nazi occupation, he set his play in part of a Parisian cafe and filled it with vendors, rag pickers, musicians and others. This more current post-Katrina political fable, set in New Orleans French Quarter still speaks volumes of greed and politics run amok.
The play was a bit long because of a need to tighten the delivery and shorten the exacerbated dialogue. As the story goes...Nature, beauty and love are endangered by the corporate greed and lust for power that consumes the President who wants to use oil to make war. Yes, this does sound like our present administration!
The madwoman in question is the eccentric Countess Aurelia (Jayne Taini), who is determined to restore beauty and happiness to a world that has been without it for too long.
Pierre (Thomas Hobson) is the peace-loving activist who, along with a local rag-picker (Dexter Hamlett), warns the Countess of a plot to destroy the city.
A quartet of villains, led by the President (Frank Noon) are after the oil reserves that bubble under the water supply. Along with the Broker (Alvin Lam), the Baron (Ali Saam), and the Prospector (Seth Peterson), the evil developers plan to secure the oil rights to the region with or without the consent of the unsuspecting public. The Countess invites Josephine (Elizabeth Graham) to judge the villains, who are locked in the Countess's cellar for their crimes against the people of New Orleans in this sluggish play.
This is a large cast with some very strong performances. Jayne Taini and Frank Noon are highlights. Also, the wonderful singing of Patricia Harrison was refreshing and needed, as the story became dull at times. If the director could find a way to condense the story, the production would be a lot better off.
All in all, this is an enjoyable show, engaging because of the story by Giraudoux, brought current, but also for the potential. Too bad there is no Madwoman in 2006. It's been said, 'it seems that this would be a good time for a person with little to lose to come forward and speak a few truths that would unmask the politicians and the so called business leaders of today'. I for one, totally agree. A time of desperation yet it is a play of optimism and hope. The little people can make a big difference in big business.
The Madwoman Of Chaillot is playing at McCadden Theatre, located at 1157 No. McCadden Place in Hollywood. The Show will run through December 17th. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday 2pm. Tickets are $20. For reservations, go to: www.plays411.com/madwoman or call 323-960-5771.