Pictured: France Perras as Germaine Lauzon. Photo by Tim Matheson.
“My life is shit and it always will be… This stupid rotten life!”
Germaine Lauzon (France Perras) wins one million- one million(!) Gold Star stamps that can be traded for anything on the catalogue. When she invites her sisters and neighbors for a stamp-sticking party, the jealousy boils over and the raw truths are revealed!
This production by Ruby Slippers Theatre hosted by Gateway Theatre is directed by Diane Brown, featuring many talented women including France Perras, Pippa Mackie, Beatrice Zeilinger, Tallulah Winkelman, and Emilie Leclerc. First produced in 1968, the play was seen as vulgar and inappropriate because of its’ portrayal of working class women and the usage of Québecois French opposed to the “proper” French. Of course, it isn’t so shocking that regular people are represented in theatre any more. However, the Canadian play by Michel Tremblay is celebrating its’ 50th anniversary and it is sadly still as relevant as ever.
The women are tired and complain about their men, their lives, and the endless work they have to do to take care of family. As a group, in unison, they are fearless and unafraid to say anything and do anything. However, each and every woman has her secret. Mademoiselle Verrette (Eileen Barrett) is in love, Angeline (Kerry Sandomirsky) goes to the club every Friday, God forbid, and Lise (Agnes Tong) is pregnant. They speak honestly, but not quite- the discreet honestly is reminiscent of any gathering of women gossiping away. The monologues show this inner struggle and conflicts within the generations and classes. Some are shown in unison with multiple women, like the famous “This stupid rotten life!” and “Ode to Bingo”. They are quite rhythmic and almost slam poetry-like. These still felt fresh and highly enjoyable, not to mention effective. After hearing nearly all their stories, one cannot help but sympathize with them. Though they can be stuck up, stuffy and biased, they are pathetic and frustrated in an endearing way. Notable performance go to Lucia Frangione, who plays Marie-ange Brouilette. Her acting is convincing and her chemistry with Germaine (France Perras) and Rose (Beatrice Zeilinger) is definitely present through all the bickering and fighting.
The set is massive, though it’s not filling the even bigger stage of Gateway Theatre. I was afraid the actors and the set was going to struggle to fit the height of the stage, but Brown created levels with her blocking, placing the actors on various furniture like the sink, tables, bookshelf and chairs. The costumes unify and set apart the women at the same time, from everyday work clothes of the middle aged women to the over-the-top Pierrette (Emilie Leclerc) and “rich” Lisette (Sarah Rodgers), along with the new generation, Linda (Pippa Mackie), Lise (Agnes Tong), and Ginette (Daria Banu).
At the end, as everything falls apart, nothing changed and nothing ever will change. Germaine believes too firmly in her ideas of what proper women are (though the ones she know prove to be not so proper after all) and is too stubborn to change her ways. But if we make efforts to bridge the gap, and understand both generations, we will be able to at least reach out like Pirrette does.