Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hurricane, by Anne Galjour

“It sounded like ghosts were swimming in the wind, trying to get me to unlock the door!”

I saw a play this week – Hurricane, by Cajun Anne Galjour. It was only the second play I’ve been to in the last year (the last one I saw was by the Cripple Creek Theater Co. in New Orleans; it was also about a Louisiana hurricane: Kingdom of Earth, by Tennessee Williams).

The program notes read, “Hurricane premiered in 1993 at the Climate Theatre in San Francisco. It won numerous local and national awards, and the American Theater Critics Association cited Hurricane as one of the top three plays produced outside of New York in 1993.”

I was much more impressed than I thought I would be. The play actually focused more on the culture of Plaquemines Parish than it did the hurricane itself. The whole thing lasted about an hour, with the hurricane and its aftermath taking place in the last ten minutes. There were six characters, and I feel like I’ve met them all – I’ve never been to Plaquemines, but it’s the parish/county immediately south of Orleans Parish, so there is some shared culture and migration. Anyways, Galjour did a wonderful job painting and portraying these characters. Galjour has not changed the play one iota since Katrina, so all the talk of storms, levees, and canals has taken on added meaning – not just for Yankee audiences, but for Louisiana residents, as well. In a post-performance discussion, she said the play always goes over well when she does it at home for Cajun audiences. One woman once told her, “I can’t believe you’re up there getting paid to be my Aunt Bobeaux!” I was particularly impressed by how Galjour was able to develop the characters by looking at their present rather than their back stories.

What was particularly fun about this play was watching the audience – I grew up in deep East Texas and just spent three months in New Orleans, so Cajun culture, while not my own, at least does not strike me as odd. A roomful of Yankees is a different story – I’ll chuckle or nod while they howl at talk of turtle soup, the “alligator patrol,” or mosquitoes that will turn your face into a volcano. If you’re looking for insights about hurricanes, I’m not sure I recommend this play, but it’s a fun look at Southern Louisiana culture. If you live in New England, you can still catch Galjour tomorrow in Burlington at the Flynn, Sunday in Brattleboro at Latchis Theater, or next Friday at the MA College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA.

On a related note, you meet the kindest people in lines! I was in line at the box office to buy my ticket, but the lady behind me had an extra ticket (someone had canceled on her) and she gave it to me. Thank you, mystery lady! A student always appreciates saving a little cash! :-)

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