“Maids,” shown at the Yale Cabaret on Thursday and directed by Dustin Wills DRA ’14, opened to reveal a room within a room. The room, in which the characters performed throughout the whole show, was framed by glass windows. The construction made for a veritable transparent screen between the audience and actors. In the opening scene, two characters, clad in nothing but white undergarments, use this space to explore their fantasies, while catapulting the audience into the dark realm of its own psyche. Right from the first act, “Maids” threw me into simultaneous reflections on human confusion, introspection, pride and submission.
The play offered a masterful commentary on issues of gender, sex, attraction, betrayal, vanity and profanity. In one scene, for instance, the maids portray intense hatred toward one another. Following the expletives, however, came love bites. This scene embodies the lack of consistency in action and mood that is portrayed throughout the play. Struggling with the contradictory pressures of physiological arousal and moral rectitude, the characters are swung into a battlefield of insecurity and vulnerability.
The three male characters all expertly portray fluid personalities, transitioning from one extreme emotion to the next with ease. More than representing specific men or women, the characters acted mainly as symbols of powerful and dynamic human character.
The play did, however, occasionally add a nice dose of humor to an otherwise dark story. The audience seemed to particularly like the brutal honestly of one maid’s admission of running out of expletives for the other.
“Maids” ends with a shocking scene. The sadism, guilt and relief experienced by the maid vaguely resembled the familiar human feeling of closure — typical to what we experience when a relationship ends and the struggle is over. The whirlwind of thought and emotion stood suspended, and the play drew to close.
Throughout the performance, the audience was either pin-drop silent or in a state of controlled and remarkably synchronized laughter. It seemed as though, despite the numerous ways in which each scene could be interpreted, “Maids” provided a solid foundation for venturing into a collective exploration. The Cabaret presented a complex yet bare keyhole view into sensitive issues; the darkness of the underlying theme was lit up by the dignity of talented actors and the elegance of the set.
“Maids” made me feel disappointment, liberation, confusion and, ultimately, plain appreciation. I walked out with a sense of surrender. I suppose art, like human nature, is to be marveled at with a reflective innocence, rather than be understood with a clinical arrogance. So, go and indulge your mind in the beauty of the unknown and the uncertain.