PAST PERFECT by Michel Tremblay, directed by Leah Cherniak (Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman). To April 2. $10-$34. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 89. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Fans of Michel Tremblay's character Albertine will share my misgivings about Past Perfect .
For those unfamiliar with Albertine, here's a primer: Tremblay introduced her in his 1966 play Cinq and gave her her own piece, Albertine In Five Times, in 1984. Past Perfect delves into her formative years in Depression-era Montreal. It's a passionate piece for a passionate character.
It almost works as a journey into Albertine's ( Caroline Cave ) headspace, but some elements of the production just don't succeed.
Namely, Yannick Larivée 's set, a circular revolving stage that turns a ceaseless 360 degrees throughout the evening with Albertine's living room sitting on top of it, paralleling her unending rumination on the loss of her beau, Alex ( Brendan Gall ), to her drab sister Madeleine ( Claire Calnan ). Her loss signifies not only heartbreak but a thwarted future. Without Alex, Albertine loses her only means of escape from her working-class life.
Albertine explains herself to her mother, Victoire ( Nancy Beatty ), her sister Madeleine, her brother Edouard ( Jeffrey R. Smith ) and finally to Alex himself. She repeats the same material with each of them, growing increasingly frustrated and bitter.
The stage's inevitable rotation reinforces her family's relentless pleas and Albertine's equally stubborn refusal to accept their platitudes.
Unfortunately, the revolving stage visually cues us to the pace of the play, and in doing so destroys the subtlety of the script by emphasizing its repetitiveness instead of its revelations.
The gentle turning should make one feel the inescapability of Albertine's anger and pain.
Instead, it spells relief, since we know that - in its final quarter-turn - a stretch and a brisk walk to the TTC can't be more than 20 minutes away. That sense of impending closure keeps us from being completely drawn into Albertine's agony and the bliss of Cave's performance.
Cave, whose energy mesmerizes, brings warmth and sensitivity to the old girl. Each look she casts at the audience as she listens to her family tell her how she should react to her personal tragedy, betrays naked vulnerability. She can convey with one glance Albertine's entire emotional past and the future that Tremblay has spelled out for her in other plays.