Despite its strengths, Plan B sounds pretty familiar
By Michael Healey. Directed by Bill Devine. A Sea Theatre production at Presentation House on Friday, May 14. Continues until May 29
If you’ve been riveted by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe’s cross-country sovereignty tour, then you stand a chance of enjoying Michael Healey’s Plan B. But if you’re like me, and you’re sick to death of discussing what feels like a dead issue, then Plan B will mostly annoy you, despite the strengths in Sea Theatre’s production.
In Healey’s script, which won a Dora Mavor Moore award for best new play in 2002, 53 percent of Quebec’s population has voted in favour of independence, so four politicians are meeting in Hull to negotiate the terms of separation. A senator named Michael and his sidekick, Colin, make up the Canadian side. Mathieu is the premier of Quebec and Lise is his minister of intergovernmental affairs.
Lise’s job title becomes literal when she starts boinking Michael. In the play’s relentless central metaphor, Lise becomes emblematic of Quebec: feminine, demanding, and driven by emotion rather than reason. This characterization is insulting to both women and Quebeckers, of course. And Michael supposedly embodies English Canada; he loves that flirty little French province but has a hard time seducing her, partly because he doesn’t know what he wants.
This metaphor is reductive and less than revealing; mostly, it just reinforces familiar stereotypes. And it doesn’t always make much sense. At a crucial point, Michael, who is married, turns away from Lise because he’s received a phone call from his female toddler. Who the hell is that supposed to be? PEI?
In the play’s central comic trope, characters say what they really feel and admit what they’re really doing: early on, Michael suggests to his fellow negotiators that they finalize the leak schedule; in private, Michael and Colin discuss when Michael should act outraged; and Lise admits to Mathieu, in French, that she could swallow Michael whole. This device is funny sometimes—especially when Michael forgets to take his Ritalin and falls into the grip of his attention deficit disorder—but it’s also repetitive.
Fortunately, the actors are better than their script. Adam Henderson handles Michael’s overwritten text—and the character’s many turns—with aplomb. Howard Siegel fills Colin’s expletive-laden dialogue with genuine fury. Jacques Lalonde brings a sweet deadpan to Mathieu. And France Perras makes a smart and sexy Lise.
But who really wants to listen to this play? We’ve heard it all before.