Hurricane Diane Blows a Storm of Thought Into Harbinger Theatre

Harbinger Theatre at Albany Barn has turned to another innovative out-of-the-box play, for its second production, “Hurricane Diane”. Harbinger appears to be setting its sights this season on plays about change: spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. In a time during the past several years, we have all been forced to pivot, think on the fly, re-access our own mortality and the way we view the world, Harbinger’s Founder and Director, Patrick White seems to have once again hit the nail on the proverbial head by making us all stop and think. This production certainly does it with the velvet glove of laughter.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

Change is on the horizon, one way or the other. Diane, actually the Greek God Dionysus, comes back to earth this time in the guise of a butch, permaculture gardener. Specifically, she focuses on a charming upper-middle-class suburban cul-de-sac in Monmouth New Jersey where all of the homes are cookie-cutter replicas of themselves, distinguishable only by the dish towels on the towel racks in the kitchens. She’s got supernatural abilities owing to her true identity and she’s returned to the modern world to gather mortal followers and restore the Earth to its natural state.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeleine George pens a funny tale of caution of which most of us are guilty of turning a blind eye, to climate change and the bacchanalian catharsis that awaits us, even in our own backyards.

Hurricane Diane blows into the theater like a gale-force wind, literally! We first meet Diane or hear her from the balcony of the theater where she beings a lengthy discourse to the assembled, of who she is and what she is doing here. Walking among the audience, Diane tells us of her plans to recruit (sic, seduce) four women in the cul-de-sac to come to sit by her side and help her to bring the permaculture native landscape back to North America. Some of the women are more susceptible to her ideas than others and fall into place more readily.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

The cast of five, Amanda Dorman (as Diane), Kathleen Carey, Olivia Walton, Tess McHugh, and Sade’ Thompson, the cul-de-sac “girls” are all perfectly cast. Each has their moment in the sun, presenting fully developed characters, each deeply flawed in their own right, yet each strong powerful individuals in their own world, (with the possible exception of Tess McHugh’s Beth whom we see as a flawed, damaged woman longing to find herself yet apparently afraid of the journey.)

Dorman and Thompson’s looks and glances at the others on the stage are worth the price of admission. They can do more with a glance of an eye and a turn of the head than pages of dialogue.

White has done a wonderful job of steering this ship of women through the turbulent storm that is brewing about them. Mike McDermott’s set design and Nick Nealon’s lighting design show how effective creativity on a minimal budget can be when used to maximum effect.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

You will laugh quite a bit, but once again, White has chosen a vehicle that will make you think. To steal a line from the classic movie “All About Eve”, “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride”. Rest assured it is a ride you will not soon forget.

“Hurricane Diane” is at Albany Barn, 56 2nd Street in Albany, Thursday through Saturday evening at 7:30 pm through February 26. Tickets for general admission are $15. Masks and proof of vaccination are required. For more information: 518-779-2803

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