Stunning performances and a striking production design make A Noise Within’s revival of Jean Genet’s The Maids a must for fans of mid-20th-century French experimental theater. Those less fond of avant-garde fare will find Genet’s talky tale of twisted sisters a considerably tougher go.

m146 Despite taking as its fact-based inspiration France’s murderous real-life Papin sisters, little or nothing in The Maids resembles any reality you or I may have experienced.

We are, instead, in Genet territory, a bizarre world of sadistic mind games where nothing is what it seems, a land that some may find fascinating but will leave others torn between confusion and ennui.

m292 In other words, unlike A Noise Within’s concurrently running crowd-pleaser The Imaginary Invalid, The Maids is not for everyone, and definitely not for those with a preference for linear storytelling, naturalistic characters, and authentic-sounding dialog.

Fortunately for all, director Stephanie Shroyer and three of L.A.’s finest actresses breathe life into Genet’s frequently perplexing words, translated by Bernard Frechtman into somewhat artificial-sounding English.

Jaimi Paige’s fiery Claire and Donnla Hughes’ commanding Solange could not be more multi-layered or watchable throughout, and Emily Kosloski, featured as the maids’ mistress Madame, does equally memorable work.

m062 Scenic designer Frederica Nascimento’s stylish set and costume designer Angela Balogh Calin’s crisp black-and-white uniforms and sumptuous gowns have been exquisitely lit by Ken Booth. Sound designer Martín Carillo’s original music underscores The Maids to edgy perfection. Danielle Griffith’s wigs and Erin Walley’s props are Grade A too every step of the way.

Additional design credits are shared by Mark McClain Wilson (assistant sound design) and Orlando de la Paz (scenic painter). Marcedes L. Clanton is stage manager and Catherine Lee is assistant stage manager.

m092 Whether or not Jean Genet’s writing is your tasse de thé (if it’s not already clear, it’s not particularly mine), A Noise Within’s The Maids offers théâtre expérimental fans the rare opportunity to see a 20th-century groundbreaker staged comme il faut.

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A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 28, 2016
Photos: Craig Schwartz

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