At Studio 16 until October 24, 2015
Posted October 16, 2015
Two words: complètement charmant. That being almost the extent of my French, I had to attend a performance with English surtitles, provided by Leanna Brodie (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), but I was totally beguiled anyway. Yes, I wish I were bilingual so I didn’t have to tear my eyes away from the young lovers – Jeremy (Cory Haas) and Chloe (Julie Trépanier) – who are brought together by the young man’s conniving sister Bridget (Jessica Heafey).
Despite the English surtitles, the play itself – written by Montrealer Rébecca Déraspe – is so Québecois; it just could not have been written in English-speaking Canada. And therein lies a lot of its charm. It’s funny in such an offbeat, off-kilter way that it leaves you silly and smiling in the dark. No slapstick. No sex onstage. No fart jokes. Just a sweet, kooky story about an unlikely romance that may or may not succeed. And that’s another thing: the playwright doesn’t promise us a happy ending, only a happy middle. How refreshing is that?
In Deux Ans de Votre Vie, Bridget is fed up finding her younger brother Jeremy having failed – yet again – at a suicide attempt. He addresses us from inside his sister’s cluttered closet (which we must imagine) at the beginning of the play, “It’s over/You’ll be the witnesses to/My suicide/You can tell the story afterwards at those dinner parties where people tell stories about terrible things”. But he bungles his hanging and can’t get the plastic wrap off the razor blades he’s brought as backup.
Utterly without guile, Jeremy is kind of goofy and kind of adorable. Someone – in addition to his sister – should love him, could love him, so Bridget sets out to find a single girl for him. Shopping alone in the supermarket where everyone else seems to be part of a couple, is Chloe. She’s not miserable but a boyfriend would be nice.
Bridget sets a tender trap, Chloe signs a contract et voilà, Jeremy moves into Chloe’s apartment and her life.
While this might seem the stuff of a sitcom, the presentation is decidedly theatrical with a simple set (Drew Facey): two rows of curving, concentric white floor-to-ceiling drapery, two gently curving ramps stage left and right and a dozen or so white/grey spheres sitting on or suspended over the stage. Projections by the infinitely talented Emily Cooper against the drapery; especially enchanting is the silhouette of Chloe in a bathtub with balloon-like bubbles rising.
Not only is there direct, almost conspiratorial address to the audience, but it seems that even while speaking to each other, the characters are actually talking to us: telling us their funny little story. “Right now you are in our bedroom” or “You are in our kitchen”, they say just to let us know where we are. And when they fight – which Chloe and Jeremy know every couple does on occasion – it seems to be for our benefit; just so they know and we know they’re normal. And happy.
Heafey’s manipulative Bridget is chic, sharp and cuts quickly to the chase. As Jeremy, Haas is geeky but in the sweetest possible way; and Trépanier, whose Chloe responds suspiciously at first, ends up glowing with happiness. Under the direction of Craig Holzschuh, they make a delightful, smile-inducing threesome.
Deux Ans de Votre Vie, the first in award-winning Théâtre La Seizième’s 2015-2016 season, is layered. It’s just a tiny bit bittersweet: although Bridget claims she completely happy without commitment, she protests far too heartily. And who knows where Jeremy and Chloe will be in five years. All that matters right now is that Jeremy has put aside ropes, razor blades and pills. But will Jeremy and Chloe’s love last? We don’t know. They don’t know. But for the moment, tout est parfait. So Québecois. So worth seeing.