1910 – back when women kicked major @$$…! How things change in a 100 years, eh…

Aye – twas a fine evening of refinement at the theater; the famed théãtre du Rideau Vert, to be more specific. An evening of fine art.
Or rather an afternoon – not an evening at all, because the dernière (opposite of premiere) of the play was at 4pm – Eastern Standard Time!

And the play was… bitter Gorki (boy – that is redundant! But purposefully so – so it goes!) revisited by Russian metteur en scène extraordinaire Alexandre Marine’s version of VASSA! Of course – who better than a Russian to adapt and modernize another Russian’s masterpiece? And, I must say, the old Mariner of the stage did a masterful modernized adaptation of this classic – and just in time for its 100th anniversary too! (100th anniversary – and third collaboration between him and the stage diva of the stage that stars in it!) An adaptation so innovative too, different from previous takes on it in so many ways…

Of course the entire enterprise is well-served by a cast that is as colorful Éas it is well-trained; starting with the matriarch herself, perfectly embodied by the local diva of the Canadian stage (on the Quebec side, anyhow) Sylvie Drapeau! From there, Marine found all the suitable thespians to surround her solidly and effectively: Catherine De Léan, Jean-François Casabonne, Marc Paquet, Hubert Proulx and Evelyne Brochu, to name but them.

It was not difficult to see the reason why, mid-way through this run, Sylvie Drapeau had to take a few days rest, on doctor’s orders. For it is indeed a very physical play in which virtually everyone on stage has to get physical at some point or another: dance numbers, so many elaborate choreographies worthy of a music video that have to be repeated day after day, not to mention the fight scenes and other types of physicality as well… (On two occasions, at least, the matriarch Vassa is found slamming her hands hard on the wooden table visibly made of massive oak. On another occasion, earlier in the play, she smashes a tea cup with a hammer that appears in her hands out of nowhere! She slaps her daughter-in-law, her maiden servant and her son on three different altercations. She wrestles with her lover, trying to wrangle free of his strong arms as he lifts her effortlessly – aye, I was impressed by the strength of the stocky goateed man! But that is another story… In the near finale, with all characters on stage, it looks like a battle royale as a brawl erupts and the deformed nephew is found kicking his promiscuous uncle into oblivion! ‘Tis a very violent play, I tell you; or rather Marine’s adaptation focuses on the violence more than others ever did before! But I am digressing now… Yet again…) All this to say that, most certainly, all of this extra exercise added to the already exhausting mental gesticulation of having to memorize and articulately deliver each and every line, every single time, it had to be more than enough to drain Mrs. Drapeau of all of her creative energy – for a time! At least long enough to justify “le repos forcé” and the cancellation of a handful of représentations… (More than two – as many as five, or so I heard through the grapevine…?)

I sincerely doubt that the play was delivered every bit as well as it was on October the 16th – especially on premiere night, the actors must have been still at phase one of fine tuning their roles. The characterization was only planned out at that stage – not put in use in any other context than one of a repetition. After weeks of this fine tuning process, they can only improve with each performance. On the final evening (or afternoon, yes) the best had to come out; due to both factors.

Thus I sincerely hope that they videotaped the performance that I saw live, on October 16th, with my beloved spouse. It was, verily, a fine evening of the arts – in the afternoon, granted, but everyone could have an early dinner for that fact! And an earlier Saturday night brewski for that matter – but that is another story… again!

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