Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: The Mistakes Madeline Made

Washington Ensemble Theatre's production of The Mistakes Madeline Made has been pushed hard by the Stranger. I expected the production to fall short of my sky-high expectations. Parts of the script did not ring true to me, but that was made up for by the rest of the story. Coupled with an amazing cast, this is a rewarding piece of theater.

In some ways that plot is rather straightforward and relies on symbolism that is rather simplistic. After all, a whole play about a shower as catharsis is a tad 8th grade language arts-ish. The role of the handywipes add a nicely modern touch to this though, and something that could easily have fallen into kitsch is safely executed. The entire cast works wonderfully together, but Elise Hunt's performance carries the play beyond the limitations of the script. The artistic vision of the directors and actors at WET has been amazing this season.

Two aspects of the script seem weak to me. First, the hinted romance does not ring true. I need more from Wilson before I'm willing to accept that. Second, I think the play skirts around the issue of what exactly is the dirt and guilt that is on Edna's (and our own) hands. More is hinted at but not explored. Protests to the contrary, horrible things were (and are) done in our name. As a society, our hands are not clean. A shower alone cannot cleanse the moral stain, and it seems that we must acknowledge this before we can forgive (or forget) ourselves.

Of course, Meriwether wrote this play a few years ago. Perhaps at a time when we have seen the images from Abu Ghraib, followed the causal chain from Guantanomo, and read of the treatment of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri the need for penance is clearer before we can even dream of absolution.

The play is not perfect; its message is a little muddled. But that which is great need not be perfect. And flawed notions can definitly still leave their mark.

As for this production I agree with Mr. Schmader. Go see it.

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