Madwomen in the Attic

The Madwoman in the Attic is a famous piece of feminist literary criticism that dissects the feminine ideal and its opposite, as exemplified by the relationship between Jane Eyre’s heroine and Bertha Rochester, the wife of Jane’s love, locked in the attic of their home. Madwomen in the Attic is also new comedy by Aoife Kennan, centered on a therapy group for victims of domestic abuse. Though the production often amused and occasionally illuminated, a number of sudden shifts in tone and subject left it feeling jarringly schizophrenic.

Madwomen in the Attic’s lack of focus in format and genre keeps it from rising from ‘issue play’ to ‘good play’.

Much of the comedy is dry, quiet, subtle and quite effective. My favorite character was Jane (perhaps a reference to Eyre), played by Olivia Le Andersen, who was a perfect parody of a therapist, and able to get jokes across without forcing punchlines.

But there was also Tony, played by Rosanna Suppa, who is funny in her own right but in a completely different way: loud, crass and outrageous. In her opening monologue, her style won me over, though grating at the furthest extreme. But in her interactions with other characters, her comedy often tended to distract rather than complement what the other characters were doing. Perhaps this is meant to be a comment on the isolating effect of her experience, but if so, it didn’t come across.

Scenes were interspersed by musical numbers performed by a member of the cast, and backed by choreography provided by the other members. Again, in its own right, this was quite nice, and Joanna Clarke’s voice is lovely, but it didn’t gel with anything that came before or after, except in a loose, thematic sense. And it didn’t seem like the long transition was necessary for costume change or to delineate the passage of time. The few bits of physical comedy slid into these moments, however, were pretty great.

Some tonal uncertainty could have been forgiven if the plot were stronger. But it seemed like the audience learned more about the characters than the characters learned about themselves. The revelations were all to us or the other characters, leaving their personal arcs quite flat. I saw essentially the same people at the end of the play as the beginning, leaving me wondering what the point of it all was.

Madwomen in the Attic’s lack of focus in format and genre keeps it from rising from ‘issue play’ to ‘good play’.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

Classic female Brontë figures are stripping off their corsets, breaking down the attic door and elbowing their way into the twenty-first century. Welcome to Haworth parish hall’s weekly Women's Aid meetings. A dark comedy. Byronic heroes not invited.

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