Queerness, climate change and comedy in “Hurricane Diane”

Rami Margron in Hurricane Diane
Rami Margron as Diane in 'Hurricane Diane.' (Photo: T Charles Erickson)

Storm season is set to hit the stage early when the Obie Award-winning play, “Hurricane Diane,” blows through the area May 1-19. 

Written by Pulitzer Prize finalist and “Only Murders in the Building” writer Madeleine George, the comedy centers on Diane, who is really the Greek God Dionysus taking the form of a supernatural lesbian gardener, recruiting mortals in modern day New Jersey for an environmental revolution. Diane sets her sights on a clique of four housewives for this purpose, and keeping in tradition with most Greek myths, wacky hijinks ensue.

Out actress and producer Molly Rosa Houlahan said the play is an ideal project to make her debut as a director for People’s Light.    

“It has incredible parts for people inside of our company and also Philadelphia actors,” Houlahan said. “It’s a rich ensemble cast, and I was excited about the ability to give meaty roles to the actors in the area. When I read this play, I recognized the women in it. I recognized the women as people I grew up near and around in this area; women who are fierce and smart and incredibly stubborn and are building the world in their image for better or for worse in some ways. I was really excited about the idea of bringing this play into conversation with that community and stirring the pot in that way. Inviting a conversation, I think that is what’s exciting about People’s Light. It’s a place where oceans meet. We’re in reaching distance of rural communities and urban communities and suburban communities in that kind of cross section. It feels really important to create that kind of conversation around sexuality and climate change. On a personal level, as a queer director, I’m always looking for opportunities to showcase queer love and queer lightness and queer dark and queer magic on stage. So, this felt like an exciting play to me to get in that.”

Genderfluid actor and comedian Rami Margron stars as the title character, reprising the roles of Diane after appearing in previous productions of the play across the country. Houlahan said having Margron in the cast and being familiar with the character has more benefits to the production than she expected.  

“Rami is this spectacularly unique actor in the sense that they have approached this process so openly,” she said. “I’ve never worked with an actor who has done a part this many times before. It’s a whole new game. I had trepidations about what solidified opinions that they will have or things that they will be precious about from a previous production. But in reality, they showed up they are so excited about the new chemistry of the room and knowing it’s a completely different play in terms of the style of the play and the voices in the room. They’ve been such a joy to work with and being able to have a grounding already in the text and also, they bring such a delightful openness and curiosity that it never feels like we’re using the building blocks of someone else. It’s easy to process for me.”

With the story being set in New Jersey, Houlahan said that the play will probably resonate very well with the diverse socio-economic tapestry of the areas around Philadelphia.

Molly Rosa Houlahan

“It’s an incredibly purple place with people who have a wide variety of opinions,” she said. “That’s what makes Chester County so interesting for this play. It’s not a monolith. It’s really hyper-diverse in terms of perspective and backgrounds and economic statuses. You’re looking at these women who are all so different in many ways but it’s the proximity of the cul-de-sac is what has made them friends. But in the face of this literal god-like divine event that is happening, they have incredibly different ways that they interact with it and approach it, and that gives the audience a huge menu of access points of where you fall in the spectrum. It’s a really rich ground for the story.”

Considering the polarization of both LGBTQ issues and climate change, stories and entertainment media with a pro-queer and an environmentalist message can elicit any and all kinds of backlash and harsh criticism from individuals who for whatever reasons get triggered along such political ideologies. Houlahan said she’s prepared for such reactions should they happen and added that getting people to show up is half the battle.        

“Within the last eight years of our political sphere, and the way the internet has highlighted that, I do think we’re at a point at which people have chosen silos to stay inside of that feels singular and monolithic,” she said. “We’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other. The promise and the hope of theater is that it’s a lot harder to do that when you’re in person as opposed to engaging in a comment section online or engaging in discourse that is depersonalized. It’s still a huge task to get people to show up. The project of theater to me is, if you show up and hate that play, that is still a successful play to me. It’s about you coming and engaging and thinking about something. It’s such a humorous play and that gives us a device in which there is a way to have a conversation about this play. You might not share the same beliefs of this play but therefore we’re able to laugh about it and talk about it. It has an open invitation in that way. I continue to come back to doing theater in the hope that sharing space and speaking things face to face makes it harder to silo yourself off in that way.”

People’s Light presents “Hurricane Diane,” May 1-19, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern. For more information or tickets visit https://peopleslight.org/ or call 610-644-3500.  

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