If your theatrical preferences include sweat, exalted language, spanks, and Daddy Yankee dance breaks, look no further than One-Eighth Theaterʼs production of The Maids, now playing at INTAR.
Obie-winner Jose Riveraʼs adaptation brings Jean Genetʼs psychological drama to Vieques, a small island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The year is 1941. The beloved islandʼs occupation by the U.S Navy is underway. The United States purchases two-thirds of the island to be used as a training range, and islanders covertly rally for revolution. In the mistressʼs quarters of a bright, breezy house on a sugarcane plantation, Monique and Yvette, a pair of sibling maids, escape the very real suffering of their servitude through a fantasy world. As the sisters attempt to reconcile the injustices of colonialism, violence, and degradation through their exhausted voices and bodies, they make a glorious mess of the house theyʼre expected to clean.
In his program note, director Daniel Irizarry observes that “the maids come in all shapes and colors. We could all be the maids.” An ensemble of four performers alternate the roles of Monique (played by Laura Butler Rivera and Casey Robinson) and Yvette (played by Folami Williams and Charlie Munn), and the result is mesmerizing. In the true spirit of its predecessor, Irizarryʼs production uses gender as its performative plaything, and four people onstage do indeed become two people in our minds. Irizarryʼs trademark movement punctuates Riveraʼs language in all the right ways. Irizarry himself sparkles (quite literally) as La Doña, the plantationʼs mistress. Further compliments to the design team for concocting a nostalgic, nightmarish Vieques of the mind.
The Maids is by turns whimsical and dangerous. Itʼs uncertain whether the audience laughs out of amusement or discomfort. Social roles are not only reversed, but gutted open for observation. This writer prefers her theater that way.