The Madwoman of Chaillot
The fictitious Madwoman of Chaillot has a kinship to San Francisco’s Emperor Norton (a famous figure in the 1860s; if you don’t know his story, look it up!). We’re talking about charming eccentrics with a certain imperious style who lose their grip on “ordinary” life after a deep, personal disappointment. But they’ve still got one oar in the water and express compassion toward those around them. They’re lucky enough to live in a community (Paris in the mid-’40s for the Madwoman) that indulges and even values their colorful and strangely sensible lunacy.
The Madwoman is horrified to learn that greedy businessmen want to dig up Paris, illicitly hunting for oil. Worse, these shifty capitalists plan to funnel their ill-gotten windfall profits into war. War leads to huge contracts, with no accountability.
Frenchman Jean Giraudoux wrote this ironic satire of materialism in 1945; it enjoyed a counterculture vogue in America during the ’60s and ’70s. Nevada County director Sands Hall senses that its time has come again, and she’s right (think Enron; think Iraq).
Hall knows her way around a stage. She directed Foothill Theatre Company’s sparkling Little Women and a feminist take on Love’s Labour’s Lost. Both productions cheerfully challenged conventional thinking, so she’s in her element here.
Hall recruited Foothill veteran Diane Fetterly, who has a great eye, to do the 40-odd costumes, which brim with colors, textures and shapes. Marci Wolfe did the set, which rivals her work for Rashomon and The Joy Luck Club by the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra. Jacklyn Maddux, an Equity actor, plays the title role.
In other words, this is a high-end community effort, with aspects falling toward the “professional” side of the ledger. The show, like its central character, can’t be hurried, indulges in some circular tangents and doesn’t worry about making total linear sense. But, like the Madwoman herself, it has style and appeal, especially if you enjoy thinking outside the box.