BWW Review: WHAT'S IN A NAME? at The Segal Centre Of Performing Arts
Montreal is buzzing with activity this time of year. Every summer, the city invites tourists and locals to participate in food, music, film and theatre festivals along with the infamous Just for Laughs comedy series, but this summer is even more exciting. This year is Montreal's 375th anniversary and in true Montreal fashion, the city has organized a plethora of activities that keep locals asking- why would I leave this city in the summer? Save Mexico for December, when you are literally blue in the face and have lost all sensation in your extremities. This summer, it's all about Montreal.
A particularly entertaining experience can be had at the Segal Centre of Performing Arts, where as part of the 375th anniversary celebrations, they have opened their final play of the season. What's in a Name?, originally written in French and titled "Le Prénom", was written by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière. The play gained critical acclaim in Paris, resulting in six Mollières awards, a movie adaptation and performances in over 30 countries. Accomplished Canadian writer and dramaturge Michael Mackenzie has adapted an English version with Montreal as its setting for this Segal Centre production.
The story unfolds in a typical Montreal hipster apartment, owned by Elizabeth, a CEGEP teacher and Peter, a Concordia professor. They arrange a dinner party with Elizabeth 's brother Vincent and his pregnant wife Anna, along with their long-time friend Claude. A heated debate arises once a specific baby name is proposed, setting off a sequence of deliberate provocations, arguments and events that inadvertently communicate other underlying secrets this group is harbouring. This occurs through laugh-out-loud dialogue, clever verbal sparring and highly relatable moments that keep audiences connected to and invested in these characters.
Michael Mackenzie must be commended for his authentic and entertaining adaptation. If you are from Montreal, this play feels like home. Partnered with Set Designer Olivier Lendreville's tasteful and true-to-Montreal-style apartment and a dynamite creative team, including Costume Designer Sylvain Genois, Lighting Designer Robert Thomson and Sound Designer Steve Marsh, you have all of the elements required to make for a thrilling theatrical experience.
Director Jennifer Tarver leads a truly exceptional cast, creating a genuine, raw and touching portrayal of individuals struggling to come to terms with certain stages in their lives. With the entire play unfolding in a living room, the action remains focused, entertaining and at times gut wrenching. You are at that party, you are eating Elizabeth's tagine and you are feeling the tension rise. These characters, despite some of their less appealing traits, grow on you and you come to cheer for all of them.
The cast of five has captured Montreal characters and nuance to the tiniest detail. Andrew Shaver plays the provocateur, Vincent, with depth and passion. He perfectly demonstrates the dichotomous type of brother and brother-in-law you want to both embrace lovingly and punch in the face. Peter, played by Pat Kiely, portrays the cerebral university professor, who spends too much time in his own head rather than with his children. These two actors build tension that keep us revelling in their obsessive intellectualizations and silently chanting "fight, fight, fight". Matthew Gagnon, who portrays the reserved, yet hilarious Claude, perfectly compliments the loud bravado with impeccable comedic timing and a gentle, heartfelt delivery.
Amanda Lisman, who also played Brooke in Noises Off at the Segal Centre earlier in the year, represents a strong, smart, stylish and take-no-guff Anna. She maintains a commanding presence and perfectly executes dialogue meant to keep other characters in line. You can't help but respect her. Finally, we have Erika Rosenbaum, who as Elizabeth, shines as a mother, wife, professional and intellectual and delivers a gripping monologue that has you holding your breath and clutching your neighbour's hand (apologies to the occupant of 18d). This cast is outstanding both as individuals and as an ensemble.
This play could easily be considered the best play of the Segal Centre season and is a perfect contribution to Montreal's 375th anniversary celebration. It is highly recommended and guarantees an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience. What's in a Name? runs at the Segal Centre of Performing Arts from July 9th to July 30th, so theatregoers still have plenty of chances to catch this show.
What's in a Name?
The Segal Centre of Performing Arts
July 9th-July 30th, 2017
5170 Chemin de la Cote-Ste-Catherine
Montreal, QC H3W 1M7
Tickets can be purchased online at: www.segalcentre.org or by calling (514) 739-7944