Fishing village tale mixes myth and reality:
The Flood Thereafter seems more like poetry than a playBy PAT DONNELLY, The Gazette October 21, 2010 6:30 AM
|Actress Felicia Shulman (C) and other performers during the rehearsal of play The Flood Thereafter.|
Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, THE GAZETTE
Sarah Berthiaume's Le Deluge apres, now playing as The Flood Thereafter at La Chapelle, begins with a woman singing a Patsy Kline song (I Fall to Pieces), as she tussles with a pile of old video tape, suggestive of beached kelp.
Her name is Penelope (Felicia Shulman), and her function is that of a narrator/poet spinning a fable about a fishing village where things are out of whack, men don't fish any more and women have lost their names. It's all the fault of a mermaid.
Offstage, we hear the sounds of the sea.
When a truck driver named Dennis (Chimwemwe Miller) gets stranded in this odd place after his vehicle breaks down, he heads to the local bar. The men in the bar assume he's there to see the town's only erotic dancer, June (Amelia Sargisson), who, it turns out, doesn't even bother to dance. They are so obsessed with the lovely young woman who comes in every day to drop her clothes that they can't understand the stranger's indifference to her legend.
Then along comes June to execute the lamest strip act ever. And to the amazement of Dennis, the local men -bartender George (Bill Rowat) and sole customer Homer (Stephane Blanchette) -actually weep after witnessing it.
Inevitably, June is drawn to Dennis, who seems to be the only male of her generation she has ever seen. Their ill-fated affair rocks the village. (Miller sheds his clothes, too, artfully, in their love scene.)
After seeing Talisman Theatre's production of this ballad of a sad backwater town last weekend, I wondered how the translated script had been tailored to fit the company's vision. The production has a minimalist seafaring look, thanks to Lyne Paquette's set with its curved metal ship's skeletons on a stage strewn with the aforementioned plastic kelp.
Dropping in the names of Homer and Penelope (in the French version, Penelope was Dalida, Homer was Omer) evokes Homer's The Odyssey.
But what does a mermaid myth or The Odyssey have to do with the lives of young women who strip for money in seedy bars? Not much. It's an odd marriage of metaphor, subject matter and post-feminist twist, in which myth sugar-coats reality.
This reviewer is not a fan of staged poetry, with exceptions made for the likes of William Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and Carson McCullers. Few writers can write a good play and good poetry at the same time.
Berthiaume, a recent theatre school graduate, has certainly made a game try. She has a flair for imagery and lyricism. But director Emma Tibaldo hasn't succeeded in making The Flood Thereafter into a gripping play.
Sometimes, actors can make up the difference. But no matter whether they sing or talk, they have to project, which was an issue on opening night. It was only when Catherine Colvey, as the mermaid-turned-short-order-cook Grace, mother of June, threw herself into an aria-like fable, that the play really came alive. Perhaps The Flood Thereafter needs more time to find its rhythm, master its siren's song.
The Flood Thereafter, by Sarah Berthiaume, translated by Nadine Desrochers, continues through Saturday at Theatre La Chapelle, 3700 St. Dominique. Call 514-843-7738 or www.talisman-theatre.com