Review: Le Passé Antérieur (Past Perfect)

by Lynn on September 30, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs.

Written by Michel Tremblay
Directed by Diana Leblanc
Set by Glen Charles Landry
Lighting by Glenn Davidson
Costumes by Melanie McNeil
Starring: Melanie Beauchamp
Constant Bernard
Genevieve Dufour
Patricia Marceau
Nico Racicot

An unflinching production of Tremblay’s searing play.

The Story. Montreal; 1930; a Thursday night. Albertine, 20 years old, is all dolled up in her sister Madeleine’s red dress. Albertine hasn’t told her sister she’s ‘borrowing’ the dress. Albertine is waiting for Alex, her former boyfriend. He dumped her. As a result, Albertine had a breakdown. She couldn’t get out of bed. To make matters worse, Alex dumped Albertine and took up with Madeleine. They plan on getting married, but first Alex has to save money so he can support them. It’s the Depression. It’s hard.

Albertine is dressed up to get Alex back. He usually takes Madeleine out for the evening on a Thursday. Albertine will intercept that plan. Everybody in that family believes Albertine is wrong. Her bitter, hard working mother tries to reason with her. Albertine counters with insults. Her brother Edouard argues with her. Albertine insults him, making fun of his size; that he’s unemployed and his sexuality—Edouard is a large gay man. Madeleine is furious when she sees that Albertine is wearing her dress. The anger between the sisters has been festering for a long time. They bellow and argue furiously. Finally Alex arrives and wants to avoid Albertine at all cost. But he too is trapped into telling Albertine the truth.

He tells her he couldn’t bear her neediness; her suffocating need for attention; her inability to be relaxed instead of being hyper. Her jealousy. He found a loving woman and an easy relationship with her sister. The truth is brutal. Alex leaves her again, this time to go to the restaurant where he will take Madeleine. He tells Albertine to tell Madeleine to meet him there.

In a final conversation with her mother, who tries to comfort her, Albertine changes into a hardened woman. She tells her mother, with conviction, how she will live her life in future to prevent that hurt from affecting her again. It’s a stunning speech.

The Production
. The set by Glen Charles Landry is simple. A single bed with a sheet covering it passes as the couch in the living room. There is a table stage right. The walls surrounding the room are gauzy so that we see Albertine’s mother, her brother Edouard, and Madeleine, sitting on the other side, listening. Glenn Davidson creates a slatted lighting effect suggesting a window. At various times Alex walks in front of the stage—he is not part of that family so he does not listen. He is separate.

These people are disappointed by life in varying degrees. Most of them rise up and fight back. Albertine seems incapable of it until the end. What they do with gusto is argue, bicker, thrust insults, find weaknesses and attack. This is not depressing. It’s bracing and true Tremblay country.

Director, Diana Leblanc does not back away from the anger of the characters. She meets it head on and creates a tight playing area to bring it out. As Albertine, Genevieve Dufour is visually alluring and sweet. Her Albertine is anything but. She is the most cunning of the family. Dredging up past insults. Taunting. Pleading. It’s a stunning performance. As Madeleine, Melanie Beauchamp matches Dufour with equal vigour. She is wary of Albertine and can protect herself from her sister. As Edouard, Constant Bernard is not afraid of Albertine and won’t be drawn into her black world, for the most part. He does not rise to her taunting. He has his issues and is aware of them. But he is not destroyed by them as his sister is. As Victoire, the mother, Patricia Marceau is proud, tired, unhappy in her marriage but stoical, and compassionate towards her daughter. She tries to give her comfort but in the end Albertine doesn’t want it. Finally as Alex, Nico Racicot is dashing, initially timid to face Albertine, but finally exasperated and truthful. He is able to withstand her wrath and her manipulation games

Comment. Tremblay has visited Albertine before, in his play Albertine in Five Times, where we see Albertine at five points in her life. Le Passé Antérieur (Past Perfect) shows us Albertine before those five lives happened. Where it all began. It’s an unflinching look at a troubled, fascinating woman. She is endlessly fascinating. Director Diana Leblanc and her fearless cast do the play proud.

Produced by Théâtre Français de Toronto

Opened: Sept. 26, 2014
Closes: Oct. 5, 2014
Cast: 5: 2 men, 3 women
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. No Intermission.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.