Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Hurricane Diane
The Old Globe
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Liz Wisan, Rami Margron, Jenn Harris, Opal Alladin,
and Jennifer Paredes

Photo by Jim Cox
The ancient Greeks, Euripides in particular, created theatrical stories and conventions that have provided endless possibilities for adaptation to present circumstances. Such is the case with Hurricane Diane, Madeleine George's retelling of Euripides' The Bacchae, now playing at San Diego's Old Globe in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Under James Vasquez's direction, a crack cast performs a hilarious version featuring four real housewives of New Jersey."

Dionysus, here known as Diane (Rami Margron), has come to suburban New Jersey seeking followers. As the god of agriculture, wine and song, Diane finds a way into the lives of four women, all of whom live on the same cul de sac, as a landscaper committed to sustainable plantings, a permaculture that will rejuvenate and heal the earth.

There's one problem: two of the four neighbors have definite ideas about what they want and it's not permaculture. Carol (Liz Wisan) is a devotee of HGTV and even gets the magazine version so she can plot her "makeover." Pam (Jenn Harris) dreams of having a formal Italian garden, like the mural on the side of the town's Italian deli. Only Beth (Jennifer Paredes), who hasn't mowed her lawn in twelve weeks, is actually interested. And Renee (Opal Alladin), who's an editor at the HGTV magazine, is excited from a professional standpoint. Turns out that she's heard of permaculture and thinks that featuring it in the magazine would be a welcome relief from the kinds of cookie-cutter landscapes that it typically depicts.

And another thing: everyone is afraid of the big storms that sweep up the Atlantic coast during hurricane season. The cul de sac has survived one such onslaught, and another looks as though it might be on its way.

I realize that this description sounds more like a tragedy than a comedy, and Euripides indeed wrote The Bacchae as a tragedy. But, along the way, there's wine, some merriment, including a lot of clever one-liners, and even some song, composed by Golden Howl. Dionysus is well served by Hurricane Diane.

The Globe's production is well served, too. Director James Vasquez uses a light touch in portraying the ups and downs of the characters' lives, and he has cast actors who can handle those ups and downs while still landing the one-liners—and providing the Greek chorus that Euripides requires. The ensemble acting generates some serious female energy that may discomfort some audience members. But, that's the point, I think.

Jo Winiarski has designed two previous White Theatre productions, so she knows the venue's strengths and limitations. She cleverly solves the problem of multiple locales by creating one kitchen, as it would look exactly the same in all four houses. Shirley Pierson provides a grand, flowing cape for Dionysus cum Diane and clever suburban fashions for the others. Cat Tate Starmer has designed lighting in this space previously and understands what it takes to create the right combinations of light and darkness. Drew Levy's sound design includes well-mixed sound effects and music.

The interesting thing is that, unless audience members read the program essays, they may not even realize that they're watching a contemporary version of an ancient play.

Hurricane Diane runs through March 8, 2020, at The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego CA. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. There is an added matinee on Wednesday, February 26, and no matinee on Saturday, February 29. For tickets and information, visit The Old Globe box office, call 619-234-5623, or visit