Most of us are familiar with the many Greek gods and their stories. One god that may stand out is Dionysus, the god of wine and pleasure. In the stories you have read, you are probably used to Dionysus partying thousands of years ago in ancient Greece. What if he was partying in modern-day New Jersey? And the partying involved seducing lonely and bored housewives? This sets the scene for Hold Thy Peace’s latest play, “Hurricane Diane.” Originally premiering in 2019 at the New York Theatre Workshop, this mature comedy has now recently made its Brandeis premiere. On Oct. 22, 23 and 24, Hold Thy Peace filled the Shapiro Campus Center Theater with laughs and gasps from an entertained audience. I did not fully know what to expect going into this show but I certainly had a fun time. It was a small show but it definitely left a big impact.
“Hurricane Diane” centers around the god Dionysus, except now he has taken the form of Diane (Lyn Stanley ’26), a lesbian gardener. Dionysus has gone through many forms in order to achieve his goal of ravishing women and creating his own bacchae, or cult, of women. The form of Diane lives in New Jersey and plans to redesign the gardens of a cul-de-sac of housewives, as well as have sex with them so that they submit. Diane first has her eye on the pristine and unhappily married Carol (Rachel Shpuntoff ’26), who sees Diane as a little eccentric for her, both in gardening and sexually. This just makes Diane want her more. However, she is not the only conquest. There is Beth (Shelby Levine ’25), who recently got divorced and lost her spirit, Renee (Natalie Kong ’26), a hard worker that loves her husband even if she can’t stop thinking about her college lover Nadine, and Pam (Abby Roberts ’24), the brash New Jersey stereotype who could probably be taken down a peg. These women all have their own reasons why Diane could help them out and she is more than willing to take advantage of those reasons. Diane will stop at nothing until this cul-de-sac is her bacchae, but can she get Carol on board? Will this cul-de-sac be the greatest challenge Dionysus has faced yet?
This was a truly wild story and I can not say I have been to a play like this one. It was able to take stories about Dionysus’ bacchae and make it new. It was presented in a setting that most of us knew well, and the story was also given a lot of comedic flair. The audience was laughing at almost every other line. If they weren’t laughing, they were cheering for some on stage makeouts. While I also had a fun time, I did feel that some of the pacing was a bit off. There were some scenes of people’s conversations that could have benefited from being a bit shorter. I also felt there were some important scenes that would have been better with a bit more dialogue and detail. The weird timing could use a little bit of work so that the audience could have gotten the perfect amount of details, no more and no less. I was also a little confused by the ending, but I think this was a great play overall. I really enjoyed the story itself and the jokes. While this play is not perfect, I hope it can become big one day.
This is a cast of only five people, which means that every performance is really important. Luckily, all of the actors knocked it out of the park. Each performance was unique and all of the actors had their moment to shine. The main standout was the main character, Diane. Stanley had to give many monologues and they nailed every single one of them. They felt very natural and they really gripped the audience. Stanley also did a terrific job in seducing the many housewives in a believable way that let you know that Diane meant business. I also felt that Shpuntoff’s portrayal of Carol was excellent. As soon as the audience meets Carol, we know what type of woman she is—an overworked and undersexed housewife. However, as the show unravels, Shpuntoff shows that there are many layers to Carol, with a performance big enough to show how Carol could be a threat to an actual Greek god.
I also feel the need to shout out the other women of the cul-de-sac. Levine’s performance as Beth was definitely comedic as she played the kooky one of the block. She portrayed Beth’s melancholic nature very well and grabbed attention in all of her scenes. Kong was also terrific as Renee in a more subtle performance. This was a character whose layers were slowly peeled back and we saw her passion and desperation as the play went on. Hong did a terrific job at making this transition natural and made Renee a captivating character. Then there was Roberts as Pam, which was easily the hammiest role of the show. Roberts nailed the thick accent and was able to control every conversation in a hilarious way. A part like this is not easy, as it requires a lot of comedic talent, but Roberts did wonderfully. All of the actors in this show brought these characters to life in a magical way, and I hope to see them in more Brandeis productions in the future.
I was a big fan of the way this show was staged. Even though this was not a play written by Hold Thy Peace, they were able to present it well and leave their mark on it. I have to single out the set design for this show. In this show, there was only one set, a simple suburban home kitchen. However, this play took place in multiple people’s homes. I found this to be a great visual representation of the cookie cutter lifestyle that each of these women were leading. Then midway through the show, a bright garden appeared onstage to show how Diane was invading their plain lives. This was a brilliant artistic choice. There were also some wonderful costumes to help separate each character. There was Carol’s rich lady chic look, Pam’s loud leopard print, Beth’s casual comfort, Renee’s put together working woman and then there was Diane’s easy transition from gardener to god. All of these outfits matched their respective character’s personality and that is why they all worked. There were also some terrific sound design choices, as this show took place during a storm. The appropriate noises put the audience into the scene of this storm, as they could all feel the seriousness of the situation. The people that work behind the scenes can be an underrated part of a play, and I truly admire all of their work.
Hold Thy Peace typically puts on Shakespearean shows or other plays that were written centuries ago. The fairly modern “Hurricane Diane” is a change of pace for this theatre group, but they nailed it anyway. The ties in to old Greek myths is what made this play fit for HTP, but it might be one of the wildest shows they have put on in a long time. I have enjoyed HTP’s previous productions, but I hope more plays like this one are done in the future. It was very energetic and eccentric, which made it special. The timing and scenes were a little odd at certain points in terms of how it was written, but I have to applaud this production and everyone that put their time and effort into it. Much like an actual hurricane, “Hurricane Diane” brought a lot of drama, energy and surprises to everyone who witnessed it.