‘Hurricane Diane’ brings existentialism to Carbondale
What: Hurricane Diane
Where: Thunder River Theatre Company at 76 Promenade, Carbondale
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday until Oct. 16
“Hurricane Diane” brings a charming, butch god to restore the earth to its natural state and a bit of existential crises along the way.
“It’s a piece that asks really big questions of all of us who are Americans, who are pretty spoiled and want what we want, and it does it in this really smart and hilarious way,” Director Beth Malone said.
The play portrays Diane, a masculine-presenting female permaculture gardener, who is the modern-day embodiment of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of vegetation, ecstasy and wine.
The cast features some of the usual, talented Roaring Fork Valley favorites with a couple new faces that continue to surprise Malone with their talent. A Tony nominated Broadway actress herself, she is especially proud of this cast.
The five-woman cast excellently portrays the Madeleine George play at the Thunder River Theater Company in Carbondale.
The undertaking of “Hurricane Diane” is huge for the production both existentially and logistically, said Malone.
“It makes you think without putting you on the defensive — it just kind of lets you ask those big questions of yourself and each other, all the while just laughing your ass off,” she said.
Coordinating schedules among high achievers for rehearsals is no easy feat, but the work’s been well worth it, she said.
The lead character, played by Susannah McLeod, embodies Diane. The Greek god who uses her supernatural abilities to charm and seduce suburbanites to bring the world back to its natural state — one New Jersey cul-du-sac at a time, according to the play description.
Fitting for a god known for wine, pleasure, festivity and madness.
“You’ve got Susannah McLeod bringing butch realness to our Diane, which, for this character, is really important to me,” Malone said. “This gender-identity representation, it was really important that we authentically represent this butch-charm factory that Diane — she’s a god, so she has to be shiny, special. And, Susannah McLeod sent me an audition tape, and I was like, ‘Yep, her.’”
Familiar faces on the stage include Missy Moore and Jennifer Johnson, along with newcomers like Julia Whalen. Although it’s her debut for Thunder River Theater Company, she has performed with the Aspen Community Theatre as Marta for the production of “Company.”
“I came to the end of her audition and was like, ‘Who the hell was that?’” Malone said. “Every night, she brings it. She surprises me at every turn. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be bad; it’s wild.”
Through what almost sounds like an accidental special appearance comes Traci Bair, a New York-based Equity actor who just happened upon the audition while visiting her brother in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“It’s her first time back on stage since COVID, and she wanted to do it in a safe, loving environment,” Malone said. “She has a small baby, so she’s just enjoying everything you can do in this valley.”
No amount of new talent will outshine hometown heroes Moore and Johnson, of course, she said.
Malone said that the production puts its money where its mouth is in terms of messaging about existential questions like climate change — the majority of the set was created through a kitchen remodel, with minimal new lumber involved. Additionally, patrons won’t find any single-use plastic water bottles for sale at the concession stand but rather boxed water.
“This production is a zero-plastic production,” she said. “We have never brought a single-use plastic container onto the grounds during the rehearsal of this thing. (Audiences) can feel good about buying that ticket, supporting the very thing we’re discussing. I feel like hope is something [the play] can inspire, and I hope that it does.”
Tickets are on sale through thunderrivertheatre.com or by calling 970-963-8200; there are pay-what-you-can options available.
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