Hurricane Diane is about two-thirds satirical comedy and one-third social activism. The comedy part is fantastic.
Set in a (mostly) pristine New Jersey cul-de-sac, the show pits the Greek god Dionysus against four Jersey housewives. Bored with Mt. Olympus, and concerned with mankind’s environmental mayhem, Dionysus has come back as a woman, Diane (Rami Magron), and has big plans to save the Earth.
Diane is a hard-selling landscaper who preaches the values of permaculture – replicating natural ecosystems to enhance sustainability. She’s done with lawns and concrete; Diane wants it wild.
But she needs acolytes to bring her plans to fruition. In fact, she needs four; three won’t do. Also, she needs to seduce them. These are the rules.
Her first attempted conquest is Carol (Liz Wisan), who has a landscaping vision she illustrates with clippings from HGTV Magazine. Diane attempts to seduce her/sell her on permaculture but to no avail. Carol’s aesthetic values are rigid.
Diane moves forward to the other three girlfriends, figuring Carol will eventually fall to peer pressure. Beth (Jennifer Paredes) is a wounded bird and wants someone like Diane in the worst way. Renee (Opal Alladin) is an editor at HGTV Magazine, hunting for inspiration. Pam (Jenn Harris) is a sassy, street smart housewife. She wants Diane to create an Italian garden to compensate her for never actually visiting Italy.
The four women are lonely and vulnerable, seemingly easy pickings for a god. Beth’s husband left her. Carol’s man seems to always miss the train home. Pam’s goes to Europe on business but never takes her. They temper their frustrations with mimosas and conversation in their identical kitchens. Diane has come to make it all better with sex, permaculture and the promise of a sustainable world.
Diane aside, the four girlfriends are hilarious on their own. Pam is the beating heart of the group and the show itself. Harris invests her with a no-nonsense charm. Pam likes to explain things and the arm gestures alone are worth the ticket.
Hovering on the periphery are big storms: An earlier hurricane that continues to resonate with the women in the cul-de-sac, and a new one creeping up the coast. Everyone is deathly afraid of this new storm, including Diane, though it’s unclear why a god should be so concerned.
The show is strongest when it examines the four girlfriends’ lives. They want something more, though they can’t quite articulate what that might be. Is it attention from their husbands? A wrought iron accent table? Diane and a permaculture renaissance? All three? Possibly, but the play seems to lose energy when it dives into the larger global implications of household landscaping. Ultimately, Hurricane Diane is a funny, sometimes hilarious, attempt to make us think about taking our medicine. Will we? God knows.