Dramahaus New York
Producer, Antonia Fairchild
DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID
(Le Journal d’une Femme de Chambre)
Based on the Novel by OCTAVE MIRBEAU
Directed and Adapted by ADRIAN GIURGEA
July 23 – August 14, 2004, The Walkerspace, 46 Walker St., NYC
Sets JEFFERY EISENMANN
Lighting G. BENJAMIN SWOPE
Costumes VANESSA LEUCK
Stage Manager CHERYL CHI-YAN NG
Press Agent KAREN GRECO
Accordionist CARL RIEHL
Atosa Babaoff – Brooke Delaney – Antonia Fairchild – Ryan Farley
Jeff Galfer – Lael Logan – Patrick McNulty – Christopher Oden
Allison Schubert – Finnerty Steeves
DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is the first production to be presented by Dramahaus New York, and it translates as an ambitious selection indeed. Adapted from the 1900 novel about class conflicts and anti-Semitism (among other hot topics), and set in France, the work is meant to be a viscerally sardonic satire. It is meant to be these things. As presented, it is sometimes profound, sometimes funny, sometimes lurid, sometimes puzzling, and consistent in being successful in spurts.
The story revolves around servants and masters. The central character is a chambermaid named Célestine (Lael Logan), who is usually called "Marie" by her employers. She chronicles her life as a maid, her life with an alcoholic mother, the loss of her virginity, and her hopes for the future, including becoming the mistress of a wealthy home herself. Along the way, as we are invited in to see snippets from this DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, we are presented with scenes that run the gamut from inspired to irksome. When the acting is good, it is notable. Unfortunately, most of it is far too flat for the historic and ironic subject material, and the social satire is often lost.
The acting highlights of this presentation can generally be credited to Ryan Farley’s performance as the wild Captain Mauger, Christopher Oden’s menacing Joseph, and Jeff Galfer in his unbridled, full-frontal rendition of M. Xavier. Each actor, paired with Ms. Logan’s coquettish, saucy, and downright rebellious Célestine, plays off her entirely differently, emphasizing the dichotomy of her situation. In terms of production values, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is most notable for Jeffery Eisenmann’s set design. Structured to look like a barn with a loft, bales of hay are manipulated to represent everything from what they are to the foundation of a rich family’s table that is covered with silver serving dishes. This element, more than the rest, conveys the central theme that the rich survive and flourish off the backs of the poor. Here, those seams show.
An edgy undertaking for newcomers Dramahaus New York, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is an interesting, even political choice. The rendering could and should have been as vibrant as the best moments, but there was great potential exhibited. I will be curious to see what this company presents next.
- Kessa De Santis -