Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
Tremblay is much better known in his native Canada more specifically, Quebec than in the U.S., although this play has had other American productions. Apparently, most of his other plays tend toward the political, and while Linda Gaboriau has done a crisp, straightforward English translation here, the playwright is noted for his use of an earthy French-Canadian dialect.
Director John Vreeke has staged the 90-minute script in a fairly static manner: the narrator (Bruce M. Holmes), standing in for the playwright, enters from the rear of the auditorium and sits on the stage as Nana wanders in and out, carrying on conversations from four different points in their lives. Aside from a lovely final scenic effect, that's all there is, and Daniel Conway's brownish scrim panels and wallpaperish projections aren't enough to liven it up much.
In the first scene, the narrator is 10 years old, and Nana is chewing him out for throwing chunks of ice under passing cars. Then he's 13, and they argue over their different tastes in literature: he enjoys the fantasies of the French author she calls "Julius Verne," while she prefers overheated melodramas packed with tragic orphans and dungeons. As a teenager, he complains about family dinners, and she tells exaggerated, mean stories about her sister-in-law's cooking and her niece's ballet recital. Ultimately, the narrator becomes an adult who is beginning to write plays while his mother is facing her final illness. The last interchange provides the son with a chance to ease his mother's pain and to help her to understand what she has meant to him.
Part of the problem is that Flye has so little to work against. Holmes comes across as a blank slate, and he doesn't seem all that comfortable with the lines he does have, primarily a long opening monologue to set the scene. While the playwright may have wanted to let his mother do the talking in this play, the story is still about him, and his stand-in needs to be more of a presence.