|The Concord Journal|
|Life imitates art in Players' performance of 'The Madwoman'|
|By Parkman Howe|
Theater-goers at 51 Walden St. have been treated for a number of years now to shows with production values that rival the finest in metropolitan Boston, and "The Madwoman of Chaillot" is no exception.
High marks go to the production team of Doug Cooper (set) Faith Lucozzi (costumes), and D. Schweppe(lighting) for presenting a Parisian atmosphere worthy of a willing suspension of disbelief.
With a well-equipped force of volunteers, the Concord Players continues to present quality performances.
Playwrights in our century have dealt with war in one of two ways. Either they have addressed the subject directly, as Bertold Brecht did in many of his plays, or like Jean Giraudoux, they have retreated from the outrage of reality into a world of extravagant phantoms where beauty still holds a plea.
Although Giraudoux himself wrote "The Madwoman of Chaillot" in France 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 other leftovers.
The reigning queen is the countess herself, the "madwoman," one of the survivors of the "Ancien Regime," humored in her claim to titled dignity by an indulgent society. She and her like-minded "madwomen" talk to voices from the past, sift the ashes of long-dead love affairs, and wield magical powers whereby society can be healed.
This antique world threatens to collapse under the dead weight of various prospectors, presidents and press agents who bear the twin burdens of materialism and responsibility for the current war.
A president explains his capitalistic strategy of margining stocks early in Act One with all the derisive hindsight of a young person holding a master's degree in business administration on the Tuesday following last month's Black Monday. Giraudoux's mockery of the materialism which he blamed for destroying his beloved Paris has startling relevance for our own times. Life sometimes imitates art.
Brian Wolfe-Loonard as the Prospector, Bill Maxwell as the President and Jerry Flynn as the Baron get the play off to a fine start with their rococo banter about the origins and operations of capitalism. Lida Bander plays a fetching Irma, while Bob Peters turns in a fine, crusty performance as the Sewerman.
Suzanne Manzi as the "madwoman" Mme. Constance gives as much vitality to her imaginary doggie as he's ever likely to get in this world. Chris Blanche as Gabrielle, another "madwoman," also conjures her imaginary voices out of airy nothing with exceptional skill.
The dauntingly large lead role of the "Madwoman of Chaillot" is played by Bette Cloud who, on opening night, had not quite hit her stride. The "Madwoman" comments on almost every subject throughout the entire play, and Cloud's energy and skill are tested. Nonetheless, she does rise to the many occasions for oracular intensity and persuasion which give the role its proper buoyancy.
Perhaps the best performance is turned in by Jack Sweet as the rag picker. In the second act, taking the role of a wealthy capitalist, he explains his desperate attempts to rid himself of the evil of money with a relish and zest that is a joy to watch. He revels in Giraudoux's wit and words and loses his case triumphantly.
Director Dorothy Schecter manages a lively, crowded stage. At times a slow pace threatens to sap its energy, but the spectable and energy of individual performances carry us throught to the end.