Theater

The Maids’ The Maids Is Just What It Sounds Like

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The Maids’ The Maids experiments with Jean Genet’s erotically tinged 1947 drama about two sisters in
domestic service who role-play as their imperious mistress. Genet’s original play hinges on this dualism — which eventually collapses — between the characters and their roles; Claire and Solange symbolically destroy their boss in an act of rebellion.

Sister Sylvester’s performance-art remix of Genet’s scenario, directed by Kathryn Hamilton, adds a few complicating layers with documentary elements. Two Brazilian women (Laudeceia Calixto and Rita Oliveira) who clean New York City homes for a living in real life discuss their experiences and backgrounds. At times they enlist us in rituals: waving cleaning products for a reshoot of a favorite music video and giving a makeover to one spectator they deem underdressed for a night at the theater. Famed French psychoanalyst Lacan is name-checked. A naked woman dies a noble and emblematic death. These and other sequences blur with fragments quoted from Genet; it’s a well-trodden path of
deconstruction — as intentionally messy as the stage floor after the performers have spit Fritos all over it. The result
is inchoate, but deliberately so — a politically defanged but pleasantly ironic experiment. The succession of gestures is a little like the spendy shoes the maids find in clients’ closets: Each idea gets tried on for size, then put away in favor of
the next.