BWW Reviews: The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux

BWW Reviews: The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux

1980: the times, they were a-changin'. But in The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux, poor old Narcisse is being pushed as he reluctantly keeps up with the changing times. Narcisse Mondoux and his long-time crush, Laurencienne Robichaud, are on stage together in this charming Quebecois play at London's Grand Theatre. This delightful two-hander stars Rod Beattie as Narcisse and Brigit Wilson as Laurencienne. Beattie, of course, is well-known for playing many parts in the Wingfield series, and Wilson has been on stage in Stratford and Blyth.

The show opens at a funeral home in the small Quebec village of Saint-Esprit-en-Bas. Widower Narcisse Mondoux has brought his condolences to Widow Laurencienne Robichaud who has just lost her husband. She confesses that she may have contributed to his death by pressuring him to run for Mayor when he didn't want to, despite his being on town council. Narcisse is heading off to a Florida vacation, and we see many postcards he has sent to her, flying across the big screen. It's apparent he is quite infatuated with Laurencienne. In fact, we learn that he has been in love with her since she was 18, but she went off to be a nun so he married someone else. But she leaves the convent and then marries someone else, too. So to impress her, Narcisse says he is going to run for Mayor.

Laurencienne has a surprise for him - she has decided she will run for Mayor. Narcisse just can't accept this - a woman should not be a Mayor, even in 1980.

But Laurencienne is now a liberated woman, and there is more to life than cooking and cleaning. After all, Jeanne Sauvé has become the first female Speaker of the House. Laurencienne has studied the Municipal Act and has a well-thought out campaign platform. Narcisse has to agree that she is better equipped for the post and tears up his nomination papers. He is surprised to realize that a woman can do whatever she wants to do. And he is also surprised to find out that not only loves Laurencienne, he also admires her. He didn't know he could admire a woman.

This show appeals to the theatre's 50-plus crowd. Unless you can remember Women's Liberation of the seventies, you won't have a full appreciation of rapid changes that were taking place, and how difficult it was for some men to wrap their heads around them.

The show has some great comedy based on the age old battle of the sexes. It was originally written in French, and normally, jokes, puns, idioms, and slang simply don't translate well. A good translator has to find substitute phrases that are funny and still convey the same meaning. This is an excellent translation, by Linda Gaboriau, I believe, although I couldn't find the translator mentioned in the Grand program. I am a big fan of Michel Tremblay and Gaboriau is the best translator of his works.

Beattie creates an excellent Narcisse - he goes from blowhard to humble in two acts. He capably shows us that Narcisse could be annoying, but we know there is a good heart which will soon be revealed. Wilson demonstrates well Laurencienne's indifference and later her resolve. Unfortunately, neither of them sustains their French Canadian accents. While Beattie starts out with the up and down timbre of the Quebecois, it fades throughout the show. Wilson's accent is distinct in some words, but not in others. A French Canadian accent is musical and charming: too bad they aren't convincing.

The witty banter makes for an enjoyable evening, and there is also a heart-warming message about equality and love. Take your young female friends along to see this show. Tell them that there was a day when a female mayor was a strange anomaly. While it seems like Hazel McCallion has been Mayor of Mississauga forever, the 92 year old was first elected in 1978, and she had to fight for the job. The way was paved in the sixties by Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottawa, and the first female mayor of a major Canadian city. Among her many interesting quotes, she is famous for saying: "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult." I think Laurencienne would agree!

The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux continues at the Grand Theatre, London until February 8th. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.




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Mary Alderson Mary has been a fan of live theatre since her first visit to the Stratford Festival as a child, where she saw Christopher Walken and Louise Marleau in Romeo and Juliet. As a teenager, she had a summer job at the Grand Bend Tourist Information booth. Huron Country Playhouse founder James Murphy gave her free tickets to his inaugural season so she could promote it to visitors. She has a vivid memory of sitting in a tent on a folding chair, with her feet up on the seat in front of her, to avoid the rivulets of rain flowing through the mud and gravel towards the stage. Unfortunately, the productions that summer were less memorable, but have improved greatly over the years.

Mary holds a B.A. in Honours English and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario. After graduation, Mary was a reporter for the Exeter Times-Advocate and reviewed shows at Huron Country Playhouse. Many years later, in 2004, Mary returned to writing reviews and posting them on her blog at www.EntertainThisThought.com . She lives in Strathroy, Ontario, central to the Stratford Festival, London’s Grand Theatre, Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend, Victoria Playhouse Petrolia, the Blyth Festival and more. Mary is a member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association (www.canadiantheatrecritics.ca). By day, she works for the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations, (www.ontcfdc.com ) where she sees first-hand how a professional theatre can be an asset to the economic development of a community.


 
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