REVIEW: HURRICANE DIANE at the Aurora Fox Arts Center

by Taylor Jo Oxley

I always enjoy going out to the Aurora Fox. The venue is unique and the staff are incredibly friendly. My visit this time was not as enriching as I hoped it would have been. Hurricane Diane was a disappointment. I wish I could make an honest recommendation to go see the performance, but I really did not enjoy the work.

The issue for me was entirely the script. Madeleine George’s portrayal of Dionysus was not what I would have expected from the God of Wine. I appreciated the choice to have the Greek God played by a woman, but the play reduced women to only care about their lawns. Watching a performance that was focused on people talking about their gardens was boring. I understand that the greater focus was supposed to be on sustainability but how many times can you hear someone talk about honeysuckle and milk vetch? I felt like I was trapped at an afternoon tea with that older weird family member that you feel obligated to hang out with once a year. It was torturous. Towards the end of the play there was a storm with an argument between Diane and Carol, and a nice song and dance number with the rest of the cast. This was the most interesting part of the play, and had it started at this point it might have been a better story. I really wanted to be on board with the show because of the all female cast and the focus on sustainability, but in my opinion, it really missed the mark.

That being said, the actresses did the best with what they were given. Janae Burris (Diane) gave a witty opening monologue that should have been a promising start to the play, but the character of Diane/Dionysus became almost predatory. This felt like more of the script’s fault than Burris’ own choices. I have always been a big fan of Emma Messenger (Carol) and did think that she gave a very convincing version of a bored New Jersey housewife. Karen Slack was the standout star in this piece for me. She embodied an Italian mother of two living in New Jersey. She gave me everything I wanted out of her character Pam and was the highlight of the performance. The script was not fortunate to Shannan Steele (Beth) and Chelsea Frye (Renee). Their characters didn’t have much personality and the lines they were given wouldn’t be readily spoken by actual humans. I think both of these actresses have talent and I’d like to see them perform in other works.

The production staff did a wonderful job tying all the pieces together. Brandon Philip Case’s scenic design provided depth with the open backed kitchen. I thought that Jen Orf’s lighting design complimented this choice well; it was nice to see the ever-changing sky behind the
kitchen cabinets. The props throughout the show were done well, aside from the bottle of bourbon that looked more like Tang. I would’ve liked a little more drama from the sound design, especially from the thunderclaps in the storm scene. Terri Fong-Schmidt provided  understated yet appropriate clothing choices for each character that flowed well throughout the piece.

I really believe that the cast and crew of Hurricane Diane did the best that they could do with the script that they were given. Unfortunately the script wasn’t great. I look forward to seeing these actors in other performances, and will still joyfully return to the Aurora Fox to see what  they’re up to next.


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