Dionysus has a new agenda in New Jersey

People’s Light presents Madeleine George’s Hurricane Diane

3 minute read
Margron, a nonbinary actor with light brown skin, stands grinning with arms spread in a suburban kitchen washed in blue light
Calling all Bacchae, this time in New Jersey: Rami Margron in ‘Hurricane Diane’ at People’s Light. (Photo by Mark Garvin.)

Playwright Madeleine George (a writer for the popular Hulu series Only Murders in the Building) reimagines the Greek god Dionysus in Hurricane Diane, onstage at People’s Light in Malvern through May 19, 2024.

In this comedic play, Dionysus emerges in a 21st-century New Jersey suburb in the form of Diane (Rami Margron), a tough, outspoken, foul-mouthed woman. He shows up because he fears that if nobody interrupts the human race’s damage to the Earth, the planet will no longer exist, and nobody will be left to worship him. Therefore, he needs four Jersey housewives, Pam (Suli Holum), Carol (Teri Lamm), Renee (Shauna Miles), and Beth (Julianna Zinkel) to improve the quality of planet Earth—his way.

George is not the first playwright to put Dionysus into the society of the day. That credit goes to Euripides, and his tragedy The Bacchae, which premiered in 405 BCE, after the playwright’s death. But Hurricane Diane is not a 21st-century remake of The Bacchae. In Euripides, Dionysus comes to Thebes, the home of his human mother, to wreak havoc because the inhabitants do not believe in him.

Before the Bacchae

George improves upon that premise: in Hurricane Diane, Dionysus wants to improve planet Earth with the ultimate goal of having more people believe in him. The play easily holds the audience’s interest, but it could have been more powerful if George had mined the tragic circumstances of Dionysus’s birth, as Euripides explains in the prologue of The Bacchae.

In Greek mythology, Zeus seduced and impregnated King Cadmus’s daughter, Semele. Zeus’s wife/sister Hera killed anyone who made love to Zeus, whether it was their fault or not. Of course, Semele was not spared Hera’s wrath: Hera convinced Semele to ask her mysterious lover to show her his divine form. When Semele made this request, Zeus knew that it would kill her, so he arranged to have her fetus removed from her and placed in his thigh until it was ready to be born. Zeus showed Semele his divine form, and she died instantly due to the heat of his blazing glory.

It might have been interesting for the play to explore more about why these incarnations of Dionysus demand so much of their followers. Does he feel inferior to the other gods? He did emerge from Zeus’s thigh, but his mother was mortal. What was it like for Dionysus to grow up without a mother, feeling less than the gods and goddesses and of Olympus while also exiled from his mother’s family, who do not believe that she was seduced by Zeus? Is that why he longs for worshippers?

A worthwhile ticket

But even without these questions, Hurricane Diane succeeds. The play addresses many significant modern-day issues as it follows the four women whom Diane/Dionysus targets. She wants them to do her bidding, but they lack a strong connection to the earth. Instead, they’re obsessed with insular jobs, computer technology, and overt sensitivities about their own appearance (Lamm’s expressions in the role of Carol were apparent even to me, a critic with a visual impairment).

This show debuted at New Jersey’s Two River Theatre in 2017 and went on to a successful off-Broadway run two years later. It’s getting its regional premiere at People’s Light, where associate producing director and Malvern native Molly Rosa Houlahan (who came into the job last year) is directing her first show for the company. It’s a worthwhile ticket.

What, When, Where

Hurricane Diane. By Madeleine George. Directed by Molly Rosa Houlahan. $47. Through May 19, 2024 at People’s Light’s Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA. (610) 644-3500 or


People’s Light is a wheelchair-accessible venue. There will be a relaxed performance of Hurricane Diane on May 12 at 2pm, which will also be ASL-interpreted and audio-described. There will be open-caption performances May 14-19, as well as Smart Caption glasses available to reserve. Service animals are welcome. For more info, visit the People’s Light accessibility page.

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