By Michel Tremblay. Translated by Linda Gaboriau. Directed by Glynis Leyshon. A Western Canada Theatre production, presented as part of the Talking Stick Festival. At the York Theatre on Saturday, February 22. Continues until February 28
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again is a funny, affectionate, and triumphantly moving portrait of the abiding bond between mother and son. This buoyant production gets everything right.
At the top of Michel Tremblay’s 1998 play, the Narrator gives us a catalogue of things we won’t see: nothing from the theatrical canon, be it Greek, Shakespearean, or absurdist. What we will see, we’re told, is a very simple woman—one we will recognize, because we all know her.
That woman is the Narrator’s mother, Nana, and it only takes a couple of minutes to realize that although she may be simple, she’s far from ordinary. Whether she’s twisting herself into a knot imagining her 10-year-old son spending the rest of his life in jail for throwing a chunk of ice in front of a passing car, ranting about her in-laws, or reciting the entire plot of her favourite novel, the compass of Nana’s vivid imagination always leads to her true north: melodrama. “I’d rather imagine the worst and be relieved,” she admits, “than imagine nothing and be surprised when trouble comes.”
This tendency often proves exasperating for her son, whom we see with Nana in a series of vignettes spanning over a dozen years, from his preteens to his early 20s. Brandishing an ironing board in one scene and a mop and bucket in another, Nana enlivens her daily drudgery with wildly exaggerated tales. “Sometimes, she was the only one who understood the point of her own stories,” the Narrator confides. Late in the play, when Nana is dying, their point becomes crystal clear.
In between, we witness a series of hilarious arguments about everything from rare roast beef to the mystery of where people go to the bathroom in novels. Director Glynis Leyshon mines the natural chemistry between Kevin Loring’s Narrator and Margo Kane’s Nana, and Kane’s wicked comic timing and heart-wrenching vulnerability combine to create an irresistible character.
The faded elegance of Pam Johnson’s spare black-and-white set, Gerald King’s handsome lighting, and Bruce Ruddell’s score all enhance the nostalgia, but the play’s eccentricities ensure that things never slide into sloppy sentimentality. That said, the closing image both dazzles and leaves you weeping.
Assured on all fronts, this production is a pleasure from start to finish.