The Maids,Trap Door Theatre. Two sisters play maids playing each other playing their mistress who plays at being an aristocrat. And both women are played by men. Jean Genet’s first produced play is in Sartre’s words “a vision of an infinitely rapid rotation which merges the poles of appearance and reality”–surely one of the most challenging works of modern drama.

Director Jeff Goode obeys Sartre’s admonition that “everything must be so fake it sets the teeth on edge.” Before the play proper begins, an actor hangs three paper door frames from ceiling beams and fits a paper slipcover over a ratty desk to transform it into a Louis Quinze heirloom. When “the play” starts, brightly gelled lights snap on. Throughout the show we see the statement “THIS IS NOT A PLAY THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING” in a towering handwritten scrawl on the back wall (a sly comment on the state of American theater, where few things ever “really happen”). Goode’s relentless artifice creates a striking but one-dimensional world; his maids play cartoon Quasimodos rather than murderously self-loathing social outcasts. Casting the piece in bold terms, he leaves unexplored the twisted psychological depths that set Genet’s work far above (or below) a campy parlor game. –Justin Hayford