Review: Life X 3 by Yasmina Reza Translated by Christopher Hampton

Directed by Micheline Chevrier
Great Canadian Theatre Company
May 30 – June 18, 2006

Sonia . . . Mary Ellis
Inès . . . Susan Glover
Hubert . . . John Koensgen
Henri . . . Lorne Pardy

Set & Costume Designer Kim Neilson
Lighting Design and Images Martin Conboy
Assistant Lighting Designer Mark Rieger
Composer/Sound Designer Marc Desormeaux
Stage manager Susan A. Jennings
Assistant Stage Manager Samira Rose
Head Electrician Jon Alexander
Head of Audio Jon Carter
Wardrobe & Props Sara Feely

Production Credits
Set and Lighting Crew
Linda Dufresne
Shane Learmouth
Andrew Lee
Dave Muir

Head Scenic Painter
Stephanie Dahmer
Hair
Jack Lyons

Special Thanks
Edwin Thomas Wentworth
for his dulcet sound of whining
and crying as “The Child”

I wonder what some reviewers eat for breakfast. According to certain media reviewers, this production started well and then flattened out as each successive phase developed, ultimately turning into a boring evening.

Not.

I enjoyed this production; it was one of the best half-evenings of theatre I have attended in a long time. Half-evening. That is the problem. I have said this before: when I drive 100 km each way to see a play, I like it to last for a couple of hours or more. This play was eighty minutes, about the length of a long one-act play, which is what it was. I spent considerably more time at the restaurant before the play than at the play itself. I thought I was going to an evening of theatre, preceeded by dinner. What I got was dinner, followed by some theatre. Good theatre, in fact very good theatre — just not enough of it.

Enough whinging about the production con job, on with the review of the play itself.

The “X3” of the title refers to the fact that the play consists of three versions of the same situation, with certain elements changed each time. This concept in itself provides quite a challenge to the director and cast, a challenge that was met with verve and creativity. The basic situation is that a couple with one young child prepare for a quiet evening at home when the husband’s superior and his wife arrive for dinner, either a day early or on the correct day, but they forgot — ?? Who knows whose fault it is. The host husband is about to publish a scientific paper upon which his career hangs, and the boss brings news that someone else may have beat him to it. Feeding the guests with no food and handling the child are other problems. In the second and third variations, the relationships among the characters change somewhat, as do their reactions to the focal problems.

Susan Glover stands out as a remarkable actor, capable of a wide range of emotions, subtlely portrayed — that was good, because she has some of the best lines in the play. She plays a gentle, slightly out of control drunk, a second-fiddle wife who is double-crossed by a run nylon and her husband’s reactions to it, a commentator who sees what is really going on, a commentator who does not know what is going on. Suffice it to say, Glover has many challenges and handles them all with aplomb.

Lorne Pardy also had a range of character positions to take, and again, I was impressed by his skill at playing nuances of character. Of course, in a play such as this, where you get to see an actor play the same situations several different ways, you can really see what he is capable of, and Pardy is capable of great subtlety.

Mary Ellis and John Koensgen were amazing as usual, although they did not have the really fun-type roles that Glover and Pardy had. In a way, John’s amazing rich voice is a bit of a hinderance to characterization, because he seems artificial with that full announcer-type voice. I think that if he could lose the power of his voice a bit, he could seem more real. One of the functions that Koensgen and Ellis performed in this piece was to serve as a really strong base for the wonderful ensemble playing that occurred, especially in the first part, when the child’s cries punctuated just about every scene. The absolute accuracy of the cuing and the realistic sound reproduction really made the voice of the child a fifth character, out of which the ensemble mined a great deal of humour. Another element of the ensmble playing was the really distinctive timbres of the four actors’ voices, which made the scenes very easy to follow.

The visual effects in this production were quite striking: from the remarkable skyscapes to the dance-like choreographed set changes, the visual effects certainly added to the richness of the playgoing experience.

This was another strong production from GCTC — just too short.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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