NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Hurricane Diane blows into the Windy City
Tue. June 28, 2022 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Hurricane Diane storms into Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Avenue, to stir up audiences through July 31. After a successful New York City premiere, Chicago theater fans now have a chance to see the show performed in the Windy City.
Out performer Kelli Simpkins plays Diane, who is either a mentally disturbed lesbian gardener or the Greek god Dionysus herself. Right out of the starting gate Simpkins breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to spectators in the room. Maybe a Greek chorus would have worked better as the tactic doesn't support the upcoming plot as planned and a masked reaction from patrons doesn't help to drum up the much-needed energy at the beginning of the show.
Set in the Early Anthropocene time period, referring to an ecological effect that impacted the Earth's climate, at a cul-de-sac in Red Bank, New Jersey, four local women try to improve their outdoor habitats and indoor sex lives in a variety of ways. After employing Diane they each discover new things about themselves in the process while developing the foliage around their homes.
There's a lot to chew on in this story about gods, gardens and gossipers with a 90-minute running time and no intermission. This project tries to cram it all together with a cautionary tale and the results have a few weeds to work out.
Writer Madeleine George must have been inspired by the John Updike novel Witches of Eastwick or the 1987 film as it follows a similar pattern. The devil seduces the women basically stealing their power until one of them defends herself and battles it out.
Dionysus is a diverse and interesting character to play with a background of wearing women's clothing after being born male. Simpkins has a devilishly good time reveling in the role and brings strong acting chops to the table. Carolyn Kruse is consistently good as the resilient Carol throughout each scene. Jazmin Corona makes her part as Renee seem easy and Lori Myers eventually revs up as the Pam character grows and blooms.
Aneisa Hicks needs some more development as Beth and the backstory between the neighbors could use some more fleshing out. Myers deserves some funnier banter and could be flipping tables as a Jersey housewife. All of the cast, except Simpkins, needed to bring in more Jersey Shore to make this satirical drama work. Instead, Hurricane Diane is forced to cover too much territory and some of the important themes in the show wind up losing the impact that they rightly deserve.
Other than living close to each other would this group of gals really be friends? Does Diane end at a dead-end in this neighborhood or keep on spinning? Will Kruse earn a spinoff as Cyclone Carol?
These questions remain unanswered but are all part of the possibilities during the tempest whirling around Hurricane Diane.
Tickets to this queer twister can be purchased at TheaterWit.org or by calling 773-975-8150.