The first thing that struck me as outstanding about Theatre la Seizième’s season opener was the set. With three raised platforms to separate the space, each character was isolated and stood out when they delivered their lines. Marie-Lou sat on the far left in her rocking chair, knitting while watching TV, and her husband, Léopold, sat at his table full of empty beer glasses on the other side. In between them, and a bit lower down, were their two daughters, Manon and Carmen.
Carmen has returned home to visit Manon, and as they revisit their childhood we learn shocking things about their parents’ relationship and their tragic death. Manon is a single, religious woman who is obsessed with their death, and Carmen has become a country singer who wants to forget the past all together.
As the sisters discuss their versions of the past, their parents shout at each other across the stage demonstrating the scenarios that the girls discuss. It isn’t too hard to follow as the four characters speak in quick succession, but I could imagine that if I was relying on the surtitles alone, it might be.
Manon feels the need to mourn her parents’ death and honour their memory, while Carmen thinks it would be better to just let go. The two also argue about which parent was at fault, and it’s very interesting have their interpretations as the audience witnesses Marie-Lou and Léopold launching bitter remarks across the stage and draws their own conclusions as well.
France Perras as Marie-Lou was wonderful as she never missed a stitch while yelling expletives at her husband and defending herself against his own verbal attacks. Joey Lespérance as Léopold was perfectly gruff, cynical, and fed up with his life. Siona Gareau-Brennan was heartbreaking as the anguished Manon, and Julie Trépanier lit up the stage as Carmen.
The structure of this play is a feat of melding past and present while telling a compelling story that meets itself in the middle by the end. Tremblay is an icon of Quebecois theatre, and this work is a powerful story of regret, pain, and loss.
À toi, pour toujours, ta marie-lou is presented by Theatre la Seizieme October 14 to 25. For more information, visit seizieme.ca.