In one of the best episodes of the dark comedy series Corporate, the characters are obsessed with the Black Mirror-style show Society Tomorrow, and a running joke is the Corporate characters theorizing that a Tomorrow character seeing their reflection is, like, a metaphor — a shallow observation that’s treated as a deep profundity. Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline also wants you to know shit’s getting metaphoric, going so far as to kick off with a character stating directly into the camera that “what you are experiencing is a metaphor.”
Madeline (Helena Howard) is a troubled teenager who joins an experimental theater troupe run by Evangeline (Molly Parker), the kind where it’s as much about pretending to be an animal as actually putting together a story with characters and whatnot. Evangeline zeroes in on Madeline’s past trauma regarding Madeline’s mother Regina (Miranda July), particularly Madeline’s violence toward Regina. July, Parker, and especially newcomer Howard make a fascinating triangle, and Madeline’s Madeline flirts with entering the humanity-versus-bestiary debate of recent years, particularly as Madeline frequently pretends to be a cat. But it’s less about that than the fetishization of mental illness, and no less than Evangeline, Madeline’s Madeline blurs the line between observing it and exploiting it. But that’s OK, because it’s all, like, a metaphor.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.