by Lynn on March 10, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by François Archambault
Translated by Bobby Theodore
Directed by Joel Greenberg
Sound Design by Verne Good
Set, costumes and projection design by Denyse Karn
Lighting by Kimberly Purtell
Cast: Michela Cannon
Mark McGrinder
Nancy Palk
Kimwun Perehinec
R.H. Thomson

An exquisite play and production about memory, forgetting, patience, remembering and love.

The Story. Edouard Beauchemin is a celebrated professor, a television personality and fiercely believes in a sovereign Quebec. He knows his history; can philosophise eloquently, and can remember things from years ago. But he can’t remember what he had for breakfast. And once he discourses on a subject, he repeats the same speech, with the same enthusiasm, minutes later, forgetting that he just said the same thing moments before.

We know what is happening to Edouard. His patient wife, Madeleine knows what is happening, and eventually so does Edouard. Edouard and Madeleine refer to it as “his disease”, never the actual name. Interesting detail, that.

Taking care of a person with Edouard’s condition takes its toll and Madeleine needs a break. Madeleine takes Edouard to their daughter, Isabelle’s house so she, Madeleine, can take a few days for herself. This proves problematic as Isabelle, a reporter, has to go and cover a flood away from home. Her new partner, Patrick, offers to take care of Edouard. Patrick has to remind Edouard who he is so often Patrick takes to wearing a post-it note with his name on it. Matters get complicated when Patrick decides to go to a poker game and leave Edouard in the care of his daughter Berenice. Patrick and Berenice have a prickly relationship at the best of times and this arrangement doesn’t help, even if Patrick is paying Berenice to do it. To complicate matters further Edouard thinks Berenice is his late daughter.

The Production. Denyse Karn’s set is stylish and spare. The floor is hardwood. There is a couch, centre and a moveable, square foot rest that is often used as a seat. There is a slight incline across the width of the stage on which is a bench and a lush background of forest and occasional projections of tree branches swaying in a breeze. Nature, plants and trees are important to Edouard. He knows the names of the various vegetations around the property. He finds peace here.

We are introduced to Edouard and Madeleine he is ebullient, articulate and expansive when talking about his knowledge of history, dates and wars. Madeleine is patient and gently teases him about his slipping memory, but is aware it’s serious.

R.H. Thomson as Edouard and Nancy Palk as Madeleine have a comfortable rapport. This is a couple who understand and know each other intimately and lovingly. But we know there is trouble when the smiles and easy teasing stops, Palk looks out in a moment of isolation and her face is a subtle crease of concern.

R.H. Thomson has described the part as climbing a mountain. He does it beautifully. This is a nuanced, detailed, thoughtful performance of a man who is slowly forgetting everything he knows and matters to him. A furrowed brow here, fear in the eyes there, the need to furiously write things down so as to keep the memory, all go into creating a character we want to know and not lose.

You get the clear sense of Isabelle’s unsettled world in the fine performance of Kimwun Perehinec. She is trying to make a new relationship work. She is torn by having to leave to cover a story. She is frustrated by her parents and we sense a tension there. It’s all in this performance.

As Patrick, Mark McGrinder is low key, patient, and hiding secrets from Isabelle. The easy-going nature hides deeper concerns for Patrick. He’s not working and he’s not trying to find a job.

As Berenice, Michela Cannon captures the quick impatience of a generation used to instant results. She furiously taps on her cell phone, texting, checking her messages, rarely looking up, easily impatient and totally uninterested in taking care of a man who can’t remember anything. For a member of the most wired generation of history, Berenice seems oblivious to Edouard’s disease. Berenice does change when she does ‘play’ out the notion that Edouard thinks she is his late daughter. Berenice is calmer, more patient when dealing with Edouard and they develop a kinship. A quibble, but I think that change could use more substance in the play to support it. It just seems to come from no where too quickly.

Director Joel Greenberg has created a beautiful production that illuminates the sense of strength from the characters who take charge and help and protect Edouard. And Greenberg also establishes that fragile, delicate situation with Edouard, the person they are trying to protect and with whom they are trying to be patient. Frustration, impatience, anger, tenderness, patience and love are emotions that simmer in this production. The result is subtly gripping. You ache for every character.

Comment. François Archambault has written an exquisitely poetic play about a frightening subject—the loss of memory for Edouard and the loss of the essence of Edouard for his family, as he disappears in clumps because of his fragile memory. Bobby Theodore’s translation is equally exquisite. The words shimmer in the air. The familiarity of the lousy subject pierces the heart.

Being a play of a French Canadian playwright it’s easy to recognize a metaphor. Edouard wanted an independent Quebec and didn’t get it. He wants his own independence and is losing it as well.

Archambault beautifully establishes the changing attitudes of the three generations of his characters. Edouard and Madeleine have seen it all and remember the glory days, both in their lives, and in Quebec and how it has changed. They have an appreciation of conversation, debate, and an exchange of ideas, face to face, with the person to whom they are talking.

Isabelle and Patrick are lost. He has no job or a desire to find one. She has trouble maintaining relationships and she is keeping secrets from Patrick. She tries to lose herself in work. She is at odds with her parents and her father’s ‘disease’ only ads to her frustration.

Berenice is the new generation. In a beautifully pointed speech Edouard captures the essence of what is happening to Beatrice’s generation. They “love, like, tweet and re-tweet” and that constitutes conversation. They don’t seem to have a sense of history or of yesterday. Everything is instant and now. Initially Berenice doesn’t have the patience or good will to deal with Edouard and his difficulties, but then she changes; looks up from her clinking cell phone and sees Edouard as he is.

You Will Remember Me is a beautiful play about so many important issues. Don’t ever forget that and remember to see it soon.

Presented by Tarragon Theatre in a co-production with Studio 180.

Opened: March 9, 2016.
Closes: April 10, 2016.
Cast: 5, 2 men, 3 women.
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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