By Emma C.
On one of my fancier outings for the nights, one night I went to see the play The Maids at A Noise Within Theater. The theater was packed with people of all ages groups, I was seated left center to the stage. My view was spectacular, I could see the whole stage and took note of the tiny details, like a tea set resting on a cushioned seat. The atmosphere was welcoming and enchanting, everything and everyone came together to create this grand scenery for the play. The play was new to me but I did a bit of research on it before I came to the theater.
The Maids, is a French play written by Jean Genet. He based The Maids on the infamous Christine and Léa Papin sisters, who murdered their employer and the employer's daughter. The play had story to it and this story was interpreted to be a clash of classes; the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie. As the play begun, an aroma of 1920s instrumental music began to play, it drew me right into the scene. The characters of the play are; Claire and Solange, who are the maids and sisters, and Madame, who are the maids employer.
As the play begins Madame is preparing for the night, Claire watches from her balcony very intensely, giving a sign of envy in her stare. While Madame is finishing up, Solange is catering to her and above Claire undresses. When Madame has finally left, the sisters Solange and Claire start to role playing. Claire plays Madame and Solange plays Claire. Their role playing revealed some deep dark secrets of theirs and some flaws too. Claire seemed to be very bipolar on how she felt about Madame and Solange tries excessively hard to shelter Claire from harm. These insights to their personality seem to indicate that the sister are co-dependent of each other and may suffer from a mental disorder. As the role play continues, Claire who plays Madame, states some interesting remarks concerning herself despite saying them to Solange who is playing Claire. She states, “You have no friends” and “loathing eyes”, Claire seems to be criticizing herself, indicating that she has an internal struggle about her personality and lifestyle. This is where her mixed feelings about Madame come into play, she uses passive aggressive statements to describe her attitude towards Madame while acting as her. Claire seems to worship and idolize Madame for the life she lives but at the same time hates her for it. Their role play is then interrupted by an alarm that Solange had set prior to the start of their role playing. Claire is immediately irritated, while Solange states “I can never finish you off”, which prompts me to ask if this statement has a double meaning to it. Does Solange mean that she can’t finish Claire off in a sexual matter, which indicates that these sisters engage in incest or that the role playing is ended by Madame’s death.
Then a huge key to the entire play is revealed, Claire and Solange have managed to send Madame's husband to jail. Soon after they receive a call, notifying them he was released on bail, afraid of getting caught they devise a plan to poison Madame. Although they plan to poison Madame, you can feel the tension between the sisters start to build, so much of their life has gone into catering to Madame, that this plan is the sole key to their freedom. The stakes are high.
The encounter with Madame is a true testament to how Claire and Solange are abused as maids,the role playing was no exaggeration. Madame is portrayed as loud and brash,and out right oblivious, she has elegant things but not elegant ways. Due to this kind of attitude she treats Claire and Solange with indifference and second thought. Madame takes her anger and irritation out on the maids due to her husband being in jail. In an effort to calm Madame's nerves Solange offers her the poisoned tea, but doesn’t take it. You can see the tension in their faces as Madame refuses the tea.
Then Madame, who believes her husband went to jail due to her greedy ways offers Claire and Solange her beautiful accessories that she cherishes. This is shortly lived since she notices that the phone by her bed is no longer on the hook, the maids are then forced to tell her that her husband was released on bail. Madame then takes back her accessories and prepares to leave to meet with her husband. Claire then tries persistently to get Madame to drink the tea before she leaves. With every attempt you will notice that Claire grows more and more impatient, Claire puts all of her hopes and wishes into that sole cup of poisoned tea, desperately wishing for Madame to take a sip. Claire however fails, Solange arrives back within an hour with a taxi and Madame leaves for the night.
Once Madame leaves, Claire and Solange get into an argument, to settle their nerves they begin another role play. Claire plays as Madame again, Solange states “I want to be a real maid”, suggesting that what they are is slaves and not maids since they are treated as such. This role play become instantly more intense than the first since Solange takes it upon herself to grab a whip and begin to try and attack Claire with it. In the midst of this hysteria, Solange states “Everyone is listening but no one will hear.” Signifying that there pain as maids is something everyone has turned a blind eye to. Claire then begins to have a mental breakdown stating that someone is watching her and doesn’t want to be seen. This hints towards her shame for being a maid and that she has paranoia, a symptom of some mental disorders.
The play ends in a mysterious way, Solange claims that Madame is finally dead and that she had a beautiful ceremony. This announcement seems strange since we knew Madame had left for the night. It is then revealed that it was Claire who was dead, she had drank the poison tea while role playing as Madame. This play I feel didn't just stand for the awareness of classicism but also the mental agony that comes with it, resorting to your lowest to gain freedom from materialism.
I recommend you go see this play, it entails some interesting theories as to what it could all mean. Not only that but the acting and atmosphere of it all pulls you right in.
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