The more things change ...

The Madwoman of Chaillot
7pm Wed & Thu,
8pm Fri & Sat
Through Apr 21
$8 adult; $6 senior; $4 student
Jane & Arthur Stieren Theatre
Trinity University
One Trinity Pl.
Sometimes there’s a good reason to dust off an old play and take a look at it with fresh eyes. When in doubt, two questions should be asked: Is this an entertaining play? And, why is this play relevant today? Answering the first question in the affirmative is easy most of the time and explains why the world can sustain an infinite number of Hamlets. The second question separates Trinity University’s production of Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot from the ten-millionth production of Kiss Me, Kate.

It’s a little miracle to find a play about greedy business interests wanting to drill for oil in the middle of Paris (sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?), stockbrokers who sell shares for companies that don’t do anything (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), and industrialists running around worshipping money and power and waging war after war for more money and power while destroying communities and turning the whole world into grey-suited zombies. It’s hard to believe that this play was written in 1944, it’s so well-suited to this moment, and, in this case, superbly directed and acted.

David Rinear’s deft direction of a whole cast of scene-stealers creates a four-ring circus with background characters that are as engaging as the principals. This may be the only occasion on which you’ll see a mime you can like, and the comic timing is nearly flawless throughout. By the time the titular Madwoman (Mallory Lane) enters, the play is already rolling along with a one-two punch of humor and biting satire. Lane’s subtle characterization combines controlled physicality with a charming whimsy as she organizes the gang of eccentrics who band together to fight off the agents of greed. Chloë Edmonson is entrancing as the waitress Irma and Stephen Brown’s energetic earnestness charms. Jordan Ty Mylnar just about steals the show as the grizzled prospector (with an “I (heart) Halliburton” cap) who rides that line separating Paris, France, from Paris, Texas. In the second act Nathan Thurman’s Ragpicker delivers a chilling oration that hits very close to home.

Trinity’s reputation for scenic opulence is well-earned here with a set that combines a cartoon nostalgia for Paris (it looks just like it did in Pepé Le Pew’s time) that imbues the first act with an interior set that fits the Scooby-Doo atmosphere of the second act.

Madwoman is a play that you shouldn’t miss — not because it’s a classic (it is) and not because it’s entertaining (it is, in spades) but because you’re not going to see another play that so perfectly captures our world today as this 60-year-old comedy.