Jean Genet's "The Maids," as in all his stage works, casts a ferociously contemptuous gaze on class relations. Here they are personified by the machinations of two working-class maids, Claire (Kevin Hincker) and Solange (Robert A. Prior), and their aristocratic Madame (Mark Brey).

Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” as in all his stage works, casts a ferociously contemptuous gaze on class relations. Here they are personified by the machinations of two working-class maids, Claire (Kevin Hincker) and Solange (Robert A. Prior), and their aristocratic Madame (Mark Brey). Director Prior’s production, featuring an all-male cast, is imbued with dark humor and exotic ritual but fails to capture the sense of homicidal danger in Genet’s work. This debut outing by Fabulous Monsters Performance Co. earns high marks for style but barely passes on content.

Prior, who also choreographs, has created an intriguing collage of sound and movement for its own sake, played out on a simple white tarp strewn with flowers. Accompanied and supported by live musicians and a four-member onstage ensemble of Men in Black, Claire and Solange play, court, seduce each other and plot against Madame.

Neither the role-playing nor the plotting — while often sensual, rambunctious and funny — ever develops beyond the level of harmless games. For the most part, Hincker and Prior play off each other well, evolving in and out of their little dramas of subjugation and domination with fluid vocal and physical dexterity.

Hincker’s Claire is effective as she continually finds herself overwhelmed by the intellectual superiority of Solange and the imperious indulgences of Madame. Prior’s Solange, while aggressively dominating the action, never achieves the apex of Genet’s disdain.

Brey’s hypnotically sensual Madame, however, rises to the occasion. From the heights of Madame’s towering aristocratic form, Brey evokes a seething cauldron of smoldering physical passion and monumental insecurity.

The Men in Black (Gabe Gelbart, David Grubbs, Robert Navarret, Bennett Schneider) perform yeomen tasks in support of the onstage action. Prior does an excellent job of choreographing their movements.

The live musical performances by Robert D. Berg and Todd Stark do much to enhance the ritualistic mood of the piece.

The Maids

Glaxa Studios, Hollywood; 60 seats; $12 top

Production

Fabulous Monsters Performance Co. presents a play in one act by Jean Genet, translated by Bernard Frechtman. Producer, Mark Compton. Director-choreographer, Robert A. Prior.

Creative

Lighting, Michael Carnahan, David Hughes; costumes, Elizabeth Martin-Gerds; composers/musicians, Robert D. Berg, Todd Stark. Opened Oct. 21, 1994; reviewed Dec. 11; runs through Dec. 18. Running time: 90 min.

Cast

Claire - Kevin Hincker
Solange - Robert A. Prior
Madame - Mark Brey
The Men in Black: Gabe Gelbart, David Grubbs, Robert Navarret, Bennett Schneider.
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