There’s a lot to love about ‘Madwoman of Chaillot’ |

There’s a lot to love about ‘Madwoman of Chaillot’

” … at this moment the whole universe is listening to us – every word we say echoes to the remotest star.” – from “The Madwoman of Chaillot”

From what people say about the play “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” there’s a lot to love about it. Says its director, Sands Hall, whose resume reads like a who’s who, “It’s a play about love. And it’s full of laughter and delight. It’s also very touching. And the audience will be enchanted by the story: It is mystical and preposterous and utterly delightful.” Not only that, but the ending is very satisfying.

This comedy with music, spectacle and feathered boas opens Friday for a three-weekend run at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

In this classic play from the 1940s – French playwright Jean Giraudoux’s best-known work – a cartel of capitalist tycoons and a deranged prospector plan to drill for oil in the middle of Paris, but the neighborhood vagabonds determine to foil their plot. The charming but eccentric Countess Aurelia and her fellow madwomen band together with a local juggler, a rag picker, street peddlers and waitresses to prevent their beloved Chaillot from being taken over by oil wells and derricks.

Although it was written during the World War II and is often interpreted as a response to Germany’s occupation of France, “The Madwoman of Chaillot” resonates intriguingly with contemporary issues. As Aurelia and her friends come down firmly on the side of joie de vivre and community spirit, the plot anticipates current concerns about oil and war, the environment, exploitative venture-capital schemes, and the surprising ways in which little people can combat powerful vested interests. So, in the end it is a play that conveys a timeless message of peace, hope and love.

The music is an important part of the play. Elena Powell as Streetsinger, says Hall, brings her abilities as singer, fiddler and guitarist to the role. Her character keeps singing the first two lines of a mazurka in hopes that someone will teach her the rest of it, and how that story unfolds is a charming aspect of the play. “I’ve also included a song I loved as a young girl,” Hall says, “called “Plaisir d’Amour,” which has been recorded by dozens of artists (including the Joan Baez version, which she remembers so well). It’s a memorable, even haunting tune about the pleasures and the pain of love, which underscores the play’s themes.”

Hall had lots of other good things to say about the production that includes 19 actors. “There are many joys and satisfactions in directing this play,” she says. “It’s a wonderful script, incredibly relevant and timely. I have assembled a remarkable cast; I’m in love with each and all of them. It’s also a joy to work with Jacklyn Maddux, a (nationally recognized) actor and playwright, in the title role. Watching her unfold Countess Aurelia has been magical. Yukiko Ohse has a beautiful understanding of the deaf woman. Reinette Senum, who has been leading the charge in educating this community about peak oil, is doing a fine turn as president – a nice bit of casting irony. And as always, working with Diane Fetterly and her astonishing theatrical ideas is a treat. She’s created over 40 costumes for the production. With Marci Wolfe’s delicious set, ‘Madwoman’ is a spectacle not to be missed.”

This is yet another play that is building the center’s reputation. Following on such productions as Tom Dulack’s “Breaking Legs” in 2004 and in 2005, three of them – French drama Marat/Sade, “The Fantasticks,” “Waiting for Godot” – artistic director Paul Emery says “With the production of ‘The Madwoman of Chaillot,’ The Center for the Arts is coming of age as a theatrical production company.”

What: “The Madwoman of Chaillot” by Jean Giraudoux

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Friday through Feb. 26

Where: The Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

Admission: Evening performances $18; matinee $12. Purchase tickets in Nevada City at Yabobo and Love Shack Records; in Grass Valley at BriarPatch and The Book Seller; in Auburn at Cherry Records; at Music Today (800) 594-8499; or call 274-8384

Information: 274-8384 or online at

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