‘Madwoman’ imparts comedic life lessons


Corrupt businessmen, a madwoman and a giant puppet were a part of the opening night of “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” performed at Nichols Theatre on Thursday night.

It is a tale of how good triumphs over evil, but not necessarily in the usually sense.

“We’re approaching [The Madwoman of Chaillot] in sort of a vaudevillian way, so that the action moves pretty quickly, people play multiple roles, but we tell the story,” said Kate Anderson, director of the play and associate professor of theatre.

In the original performance of “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” there were about 30 actors and two large sets. In this performance, however, there were only 13 actors and two smaller sets, which meant many of the characters had to play two or three different roles throughout the production.

“It was different from the original, but their interpretation was really good,” said Emma Andres, sophomore in English.

Anderson said although the original performance tackled issues relevant more than half a century ago, many of the problems relate to today’s society.

“[The Madwoman of Chaillot] is sort of about institutional and corporate greed and corruption, having a disregard for humanity and the environment and wanting to simply drill for oil and manipulate stocks,” Anderson said. “Even though this play was written in 1943, it feels very current because all of the issues are the same things that we’re dealing with right now.”

One of the most important characters in the play was Countess Aurealia, otherwise known as the “Madwoman.”

At first, the Madwoman seems to be the most insane character on stage with her eccentric clothes and strange take on the world. She is convinced she can change the seemingly impossible and shows her naivete to the audience on numerous occasions.

Despite her quirks, however, the audience comes to find that she is the clearest thinker of all.

“Sometimes the person that’s considered mad may be the most sane person in the room, especially in a world that has gotten really crazy,” Anderson said about how madness is portrayed.

Another character who played a significant role was the puppet, who was a deaf mute.

“It’s not originally supposed to be that way, but the deaf mute is sort of a character that sees all, understands all — so really gets the big picture,” Anderson said.

Although the play addressed a variety of issues, it also provided comic relief.

“It made you think, but it was funny,” said Cindy Poehling, mother of Elise Poehling. Poehling, freshman in music theatre performance, played the role of the Madwoman.

Jean Giraudoux, who wrote the original story during the World War II German occupation of France, seemed to believe in the comedy and tragedy of life.

The actors said they enjoyed the sense of comedy throughout the performance.

“There was a lot of playfulness and [Kate] let us figure out a lot of blocking, and we had a lot of input,” said Isabella Alonso, sophomore in theatre performance.

Anderson said there are multiple life lessons to be learned from the production.

“You learn from the hard things from life and enjoy and laugh at the things that are funny, so it’s multi-dimensional,” Anderson said.