by Byron Toben
After the opening of the well-acted and directed August, An Afternoon in the Country, I asked two theatre people what they thought. Without having talked to each other, they each said: “Tennessee Williams comes to Témiscamingue,” which was my reaction as well.
This English premiere by an award-winning francophone, Ontarian author, Jean Marc Dalpe, were compared by these two critics to Turgenev, Chekov, Sam Shepard and even our own David Fennario.
They seemed to like the script more than I.
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While it had its moments, it was in essence another rural family squabbling about relationships, money and the rural-urban divide.
Theatre reviews tend to tell you more about the critic than the play itself. To me, the revelations of character herein revealed, though well done, did not bring great new insights into the human condition.
Not that every play has to do so, but for serious theatre, I’m a Hamlet kinda guy.
The Centaur is to be praised for continuing to bridge the Quebec’s two solitudes with fine translations to introduce the anglo audience to francophone work.
Harry Standjofski directed the veteran cast. Clare Coulter got the biggest applause as the crusty grandmother (ornery old folk tend to amuse audiences).
Danette Mackay, as usual, gave a sparkling turn as the city daughter revisiting the ramshackle northern Ontario homestead. Graham Cuthbertson, known for his wry parodies, emotes with passion as her cuckolded brother-in-law.
Veteran Chip Chuipka brings a true veracity to a quiet role as her father and Pier Kohl reveals a mean streak under a friendly façade as her fiancé.
If you go—and you should—don’t mind my reservations, and be sure to read Suzanne Shugar’s enlightening background interview with Dalpe in the program.
August, An Afternoon in the Country continues at the Centaur until October 28. 453 St. François-Xavier, 514-288-3163, centaurtheatre.com.