BEAUX GESTES & BEAUTIFUL DEEDS by Marie-Lynn Hammond, directed by John Van Burek, with Deborah Lalonde-Grover, Maria Ricossa and Hammond. Presented by Pleiades Theatre at Artword (75 Portland). Runs to May 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$30, Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Marie-Lynn Hammond's 1984 play Beaux Gestes & Beautiful Deeds puts onstage the histories of her maternal francophone grandmother and her paternal anglophone grandmother. Revived by Pleiades Theatre director John Van Burek , the gentle, low-key piece has charm and two dramatically contrasted stories, though the songs that counterpoint the action, written and sung by Hammond, have little dramatic bite.
Corinne Allard ( Deborah Lalonde-Grover ) and Elsie Hammond ( Maria Ricossa) come from different worlds - one's Catholic and used to hard work, the other's Protestant and used to elegance - but playwright Hammond cleverly shows they share similar marital experiences and emotional longing. The show's most theatrical scene is the final one, a comic piece where the two mothers meet tensely before discovering unexpected parallels in their lives.
Ricossa's romantic Elsie, who cruises the Mediterranean and writes poetry, gives a placid face to the world, but her elegance and sometimes languid presentation hide an uncertainty about her life and future.
Lalonde-Grover's Corinne is the more plain and practical, her difficult life - a working wife with 10 children - enlivened by the occasional song and dance. The former is all soft curves, the latter all brittle angles.
Both actors give fine detailed performances. Lalonde-Grover's mobile face is a marvel of expression as she alternates the restrained and liberated sides of Corinne.
Designer Andjelija Djuric adds to the production's theme with a colour scheme that keeps Elsie in vibrant purples and Corinne in faded blues. The designer then blends the colours for Hammond, who sings about having an English head and a French heart.
The show is largely in English with some French lines and songs, with more fully bilingual performances on April 25, 30 and May 5.