ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS (ALBERTINE IN FIVE TIMES) by Michel Tremblay (Théâtre Français de Toronto/Théâtre la Catapulte). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To April 28 (some English surtitled performances). $28-$57, some pwyc and rush. See listings. 416-534-6604. See listing. Rating: NNN
One person can be so many people in the course of a life - an idea fleshed out powerfully in Michel Tremblay's 1984 memory play Albertine In Cinq Temps, in which we see the title character at 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70, each age played by a different actor.
Théâtre de français de Toronto and Théâtre de Catapulte's co-production, performed in French (English surtitles are available at select performances), is generally strong but could be more effective.
Albertine is an ordinary working-class woman whose life contains much heartbreak, which she's covered up over the years in layers of anger, denial and even a period of pill-popping forgetfulness.
At 70, she's committed to a seniors' home and revisits her earlier selves as if to make peace with them. Also present is her pretty sister Madeleine (Geneviève Dufour).
Director Jean-Stéphane Roy gets mostly solid work from his cast, particularly Patricia Marceau as the breezy 50-year-old restaurant server who's clearly got secrets under her apron, and Lyne Tremblay as the 60-year-old so deep in depression she's literally crawling on the floor, her voice a guttural cry.
Less successful at mining their characters are Marie-Hélène Fontaine and Mélanie Beauchamp as the oldest and youngest Albertines.
For a play that's already dense with overlapping incidents and stories, some of Roy's choices seem odd. The focus on a plush red curtain - designed by Brian Smith - at the beginning and end, as if to emphasize the work's theatricality, becomes distracting.
And Benoît Brunet-Poirier's lighting design uses hanging bare bulbs and a ghost light - a theatre tradition - for metaphysical or metafictional effects that don't always succeed.