At The Cultch until November 28, 2015
Posted November 20, 2015
What if your loved ones don’t love you enough? What if they bail out on you if you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Now there’s a nightmare to plague your waking and sleeping hours.
Maybe something got lost in Bobby Theodore’s translation of François Archambault’s Tu te souviendras de moi (You Will Remember Me) but I was not as moved as I think I ought to have been. The play is peopled with characters that are hard to like.
An egotistical, pompous, opinionated womanizer with a record of sleeping with his university students, 60-year-old Edouard (Kevin McNulty) is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. His philandering over many years has angered his wife Madeleine (Patti Allan) to the point that she’s in no mood to ease him gently into that dark night. Completely unbelievably, she turns up at their daughter Isabelle’s place with Edouard in tow and a little suitcase, fully prepared to dump him there. No warning. No discussion. Isabelle (Marci T. House) has recently broken off a relationship and has a new man, Patrick (Craig Erickson) in her life. Isabelle is an ambitious, workaholic journalist but Patrick is, apparently, unemployed. They don’t appear to have anything going for them but Isabelle is content that Patrick agrees to ‘babysit’ Edouard who can’t, from one moment to the next, remember who Patrick is. Ironically, a recurring remark of Edouard’s is: “I have an excellent memory”. He can still remember countless historical dates but can’t remember if he had breakfast that morning.
At first, partly due to Erickson’s personal charm, it appears Patrick will do a good job. But he goes off to drink and play poker with his guy friends, leaving Edouard with his angry, sullen, perpetually texting teenaged daughter Berenice (Sereana Malani), a child from Patrick’s previous relationship.
There’s a tragedy in Edouard, Madeleine and Isabelle’s life that comes to light and gives reason for Isabelle to resent her father and mother.
So who loves this old guy? Who’s going to care for him?
A sovereigntist, Archambault takes a jab at anglophone Canadians, equating their treatment of the Québecois with their treatment of the First Nations people. My friend, an ex-Montreal anglophone was spitting mad: “Not the same at all.”
Clarification: Kevin McNulty sent me the following lines from the play. This is what Edouard actually says:
“… it all disappears without anyone crying, without anyone noticing… It’s the natural way of things. It’s like Quebec. As a people, we will have been an oddity in the Americas. Our disappearance, though regrettable, won’t necessarily be a huge loss for Humanity. Our language will no longer be heard. And so what? Who remembers all the nations sacrificed to history? Do we lament the fate of the First Nations? In the 16th century, the Spaniards pulverized one of the most advanced civilizations on the planet…..”
McNulty goes on to write: Edouard never compares the treatment of the Quebecois to the treatment of First Nations – just the fact that both societies, like all societies, will eventually disappear, like Edouard.
Under the direction of Diane Brown, artistic director of Ruby Slippers Theatre, Kevin McNulty is wonderful as Edouard. While we may not actually like the character with his history of infidelity and his superior attitude, McNulty’s lost look and bewilderment does tug at the heartstrings. As Madeleine, Patti Allan is so stringent, so purse-lipped, so unforgiving, it’s a struggle to find sympathy for her. Craig Erickson’s Patrick is rumpled and charming; when asked by Edouard yet again what he does and he replies, “I’m an astronaut”, it looks as if he will be the kind, sympathetic soul that Edouard so needs. But Patrick fails him, too. With the exception of one outing to the bar with her father, Isabelle is obviously going to be short-tempered with Edouard very soon.
That leaves Berenice, the sulky teenager. And here is the heart of You Will Remember Me. Sereana Malani takes Berenice on a journey that almost salvages this play for me. To some extent, Berenice and Edouard save each other.
It’s a handsome production with set designed by Heidi Wilkinson, projections by Corwin Ferguson and light design by John Webber.
The best part of You Will Remember Me is the discussion in the car on the way home and lingering long after: with memory erased, is life worth living? The 60s mantra, “Live in the moment” is fine as long as you have a choice. Edouard, still capable of writing notes to himself, writes: “What is the point in living in the moment if you can’t remember five minutes later? Better to die.”
Unless, perhaps, your loved ones really do love you and are prepared to go the distance with you.