The Maids OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Ruby Washington
  • The Maids
  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • USA TODAY

  • DAILY NEWS

Opening Night:
August 6, 2014
Closing:
August 16, 2014

Theater: New York City Center / 130 West 55th Street, New York, NY, 10019

Synopsis: 

Sydney Theatre Company returns to Lincoln Center Festival with Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert, and Elizabeth Debicki in Jean Genet’s The Maids. Inspired by the story of the infamous Papin sisters who brutally killed their employer and her daughter, Genet’s play delves into the rituals of siblings Claire and Solange—played by Blanchett and Huppert—as they take turns playing both sides of the power divide and plot the demise of the domineering Mistress (Debicki). The production is directed by one of Australia’s most regarded theatrical talents, Benedict Andrews.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Maids

    Classy Dames in Desperate Straits Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in ‘The Maids’ at City Center

    Ben Brantley

    August 10, 2014: Some real classy dames are tearing up the joint at City Center, where the Sydney Theater Company is performing its rip-roaring production of Jean Genet’s The Maids as part of the Lincoln Center Festival through Aug. 16. You might add that these ladies, embodied in the august personages of Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, are stinking up the place, as well. Their language, with its sewer-mouth talk of body odors and functions, is as rank as it is florid. Then there’s that fancy perfume they keep spritzing on their private parts. And, oh, those cut flowers — what looks like acres of them — which are flung about at random and used as vigorous instruments of flagellation. A less-charitable theatergoer might detect another aroma within this bouquet of smells: the whiff of acting so ripe it’s gone rotten. But to object to that would be to miss the point of what the comfort-zone-trashing director, Benedict Andrews, and his brave cast of three — which is rounded out by the smashing young actress Elizabeth Debicki — are trying to achieve here.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF The Maids

    ‘The Maids’ Starring Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert

    Marilyn Stasio

    August 9, 2014: As showpieces go, they don’t get much showier than Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in the Sydney Theater Company production of Jean Genet’s The Maids, the theatrical centerpiece of this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival. Genet based this 1947 play on a notorious murder case in which two homicidal sisters killed their mistress and her daughter. The kind of roles, in other words, that actresses would kill to play. Blanchett and Huppert are demonstrably well equipped to play the parts — but not on the same stage. The mismatching of these super-thesps is quite baffling. The fluid nature of Genet’s absurdist theatrical style opens the play to any number of interpretations, including the provocative notion that play-acting and murder are both legitimate ways of establishing one’s own identity. Set designer Alice Babidge acknowledges as much with a box set constructed of glass, with multiple mirrors and an overhead video screen. If life is a stage, then this is a stage where artifice comes to life. Inventing an identity invariably means stealing from other people. This is the context in which Solange (Huppert) and Claire (Blanchett) are introduced to us. As personal maids to the mistress of the house, the sisters share a tiny room in the attic. But with their mistress out of the house they feel free to creep into her flower-bedecked bedroom and appropriate pieces of her identity. By lying on her bed, trying on items from her vast wardrobe — color coordinated and gorgeously arrayed on a stage-length garment rack — and making free use of her makeup, they enact a highly ritualized scenario that ends, menacingly enough, with her murder.

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  • USA TODAY REVIEW OF The Maids

    Blanchett, Huppert fearlessly tackle Genet's 'Maids'

    Elysa Gardner

    August 9, 2014: "I hate you," Solange, the elder of two sisters, tells Claire, the younger, in Sydney Theatre Company's production of Jean Genet's The Maids (three out of four stars). To which Claire responds, "I hate you back." But the women actually love each other — too much, they'll admit, and in a complicated, unconventional way that involves elaborate role playing and a steady stream of often profane insults. Claire and Solange — played here, respectively, by Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert — have no one but each other and the wealthy, soulless materialist who employs them. As a result, in this bleak, searingly class-conscious tragicomedy — first produced in 1947, and inspired by a real-life case in which two sisters killed the woman providing them domestic work, and her daughter — Genet's siblings form an interdependent bond fueled by emotional and sexual sadomasochism.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF The Maids

    Cate Blanchett sweeps you under her spell in Jean Genet's 'The Maids'

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    August 9, 2014: Cate Blanchett is ready for her closeup, Mr. Genet — and in all of the demented desperation that suggests. The thrill of watching this Oscar winner and stage animal go belly-up in all her game-for-anything glory comes thanks to the Sydney Theatre Company’s wild and woolly but weirdly lopsided production of Jean Genet’s 1947 play, The Maids. Based on an actual ugly double homicide, the work is a spiky and spit-covered (on shoes, a dress and practically in a woman’s face) and repetitive one about class warfare, revenge and role-playing. Blanchett is Claire. French film and stage star Isabelle Huppert is her big sister Solange. They work as maids for a spoiled-rotten rich 20something mistress (Elizabeth Debicki), who can’t even tell them apart. They hate her. A lot. When the lady of the house is out, Claire and Solange get their rocks off acting out a charade. They take turns impersonating the boss and killing her. But now Claire has upped the revenge ante — and the maids’ gooses are cooked. Cracks in brave fronts are showing. At least one of them is going down — for good.

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