‘The Maids’ takes a chilling look at servitude
Nov. 15, 2010

It’s a tale of love, hate and murder, ripped straight from the headlines of 1933 France. That year, sisters Christine and Lea Papin murdered their employer and her daughter in one of the country’s most gruesome killings.

In 1947, French dramatist Jean Genet wrote “The Maids,” based on the case. Next week, the Theatre Arts Department will present Genet’s absurdist play in Price Theater’s black box.

Director Kim Barber Knoll, Chair of the department, said the show is very intense.

“Genet uses ritual, fantasy and psychological manipulation to illustrate the maids’ misery and loss of self in a class-ridden French society,” she said. “It’s disturbing and chilling how desolate these two women are, and what they do to try to keep going. Genet had a very difficult life and a very personal point of view about living a life of servitude. It’s a powerful piece.”

The three-woman cast includes Laura Hennesy as Claire, Jenny Crawford as Solange and Anna Carroll Sims as Madame.

Solange is the older sister, and Jenny says she has a complicated relationship with her sibling.

“She is very blunt, to the point and domineering, but she is that way because she is trying to nurture her sister,” she said. “But there is a strong love/hate thing going on, too.”

In fact, the tricky balance between love and hate is a theme throughout the play.

“My character Claire is Madame’s favorite, so that stirs up a lot between the sisters,” Laura said. “But all they have is each other, and they feel trapped because there is nothing else they can do. There are all different kinds of levels between each of the characters, and in themselves.

It’s also been fun working this intensely on a character.”

Anna Carroll portrays Madame, who isn’t that much older than her maids.

“She’s only in her late 20s, but she has trouble finding the balance between reality and what is in her head,” she said. “The challenge in a character like this is to discover a part of yourself in the character. It’s interesting, but in this case, it’s also a little scary.”

Knoll cautions that the play contains mature subject matter and themes.

“It’s more disturbing than shocking,” she said. “This is probably one of the most difficult plays we’ve done since ‘No Exit.’ ”All the characters are very good at manipulating each other, and there are so many levels to this kind of work for young actors.”

“The Maids” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17-20 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 20 & 21. Seating is limited.  Call the box office at (706) 880-8080 or e-mail priceboxoffice@lagrange.edu to reserve tickets. The box office is open from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays. Knoll asks that those who have reserved tickets and are unable to come to call and release their tickets so those seats may be open for others.

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