At Madwoman, lunatics are running the asylum with love

At Madwoman, lunatics are running the asylum with love

If you’ve been on the Mall much recently, you’ve likely come across The Madwoman Project. It’s hard to miss. Fifteen minutes or so before the show gets started, a pink-haired girl (Opal Lechmanski) can be found methodically sweeping the square created by the Third Street intersection. The subtlety of her peculiarity, her cobbled-together skirt, her Sisyphean task, it all creates a sort of absurd, barely moving tableau vivant that can be easily overlooked by the otherwise preoccupied. If you’re standing there at show time, the moment is made even more surreal by the distant but growing sound of a fiddle, a twangy song concerning the devil and his machinations (which you will be unable to get out of your head for some time, fair warning), and soon after, the approach of close to a dozen oddly dressed gypsies pushing carts laden with all the trappings and accoutrements of a of an inventive, resourceful, brave piece of street theater.

The Madwoman Project is, without a doubt, a labor of love. Director and Executive Producer Kay Ferguson writes, “… the impetus … was my desire to shake it up, break it up, and try not one but many new ways of making theater.” And while street theater itself isn’t necessarily new, its utilization in this capacity and in this part of this particular country is. The show is an ensemble piece based on The Madwoman of Chaillot, a mid-century poetic satire by Giraudoux, updated and contextualized in parts but with the original story largely intact which, like any satire worthy of the designation, bears a kind of frustratingly timeless relevance. The story loosely follows the grandiose efforts of one madwoman, played by Sian Richards, to stem the tide of corruption and greed that has set in motion plans to destroy the city of Paris. But the true appeal of the show is in the freedom and playfulness of its construction, and the remarkably thin line between silly absurdity and stinging social commentary so deftly trodden by the versatile and multiply-charactered cast of local favorites Larry GoldsteinKara McLane BurkeEamon HylandLarry Garretson, and rounded out by player/composer/music director Peter Markush.

Worthwhile theater is all about bravery; walking out in front of a crowd of strangers and baring some or all of your inners, even in the guise of another person, requires a certain level of courage, of course, but I’m talking about the steel-eyed nerve to try something new, to take it out of the vacuum and put it on the street, and expose your creation to the unpredictable elements. That in itself is worthy of merit, even disregarding the viability of the outcome. With the always surprisingly robust art community we have at our disposal and the ripe environment for experimentation, The Madwoman Project is exactly the kind of theater that needs to be done here, and you’d do yourself a favor to get out to the Mall in the next two weeks to catch it before it’s gone.

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