Emily Townley, Amy McWilliams, and Naomi Jacobson
in Maria/Stuart
(© Stan Barouh)
Emily Townley, Amy McWilliams, and Naomi Jacobson
in Maria/Stuart
(© Stan Barouh)
The characters of Jason Grote's Maria/Stuart, now premiering at Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, are all plagued by a soda-guzzling, German-verse-reciting changeling, but only Aunt Sylvia, the allegedly "mentally ill" member of the family acknowledges its existence. So are those of us pretending to be sane really just in denial?

"In his book Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault talks about how madness was an invented thing that came along with the enlightenment, when we expected things to be rational," says Grote. "We live in a world that is based on science and technology and is seemingly very rational, but it is also weirdly surreal. The boundaries between reality and fantasy are very porous."

Grote, best known for 1001, has once again drawn from multiple sources of inspiration for this new play. "I was very fascinated by this Hillary Clinton generation of women that had achieved all of these laudable goals and had some degree of equality, power, and influence over society, but in many ways were deeply unhappy," he says. And, of course, the work also pays tribute to Freidrich Schiller's Mary Stuart. "I thought it would be really fascinating to take and transpose this very melodramatic, overwrought, German romantic rivalry between two English queens (Mary and Elizabeth I) and make it about these two modern day suburban women in order to trivialize that conflict. Plus, I like to look at what I've done in a lot of my prior plays and then try to do something totally different. I've never liked family drama as a genre. So, if I were to do that sort of project -- that I thought I'd never do -- this is what it would look like."