Impromptu on Nuns' Island by Michael Tremblay, translated by Linda Gaboriau, directed by Diana Leblanc, with Diana Donnelly, Patricia Hamilton, Robert Persichini and Dixie Seatle. Presented by the Tarragon and Centaur Theatre in the Tarragon Mainspace (30 Bridgman). Runs to February 2, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$31, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Impromptu on nuns' island, the latest work by Michel Tremblay, spits out so many themes you're never sure what it wants to be. Or say.Diva Patricia Pasquetti, Montreal-born but European-famed, returns home after a flubbed performance at the Opera Bastille in Paris. She wants consolation, but her actor daughter Michelle and grande-dame performer mother Estelle both turn on her, as does Richard, the accompanist who regularly turns up at the snap of Patricia's fingers when she's in trouble.
Tremblay also throws in thoughts on fame at home and abroad and questions about an artist's politics, Quebec sovereignty and self-delusion onstage and off. But they're threads hanging loose on the play's fabric, not tied into it.
The script problems are accentuated -- and this is partly the fault of director Diana Leblanc -- by the production's lack of passion, either between the characters or in the way they espouse their views. Diana Donnelly, a talented actor, can't make Michelle much more than a sketch, and while Robert Persichini draws some nice comedy from Richard, the character dissolves later in the play.
Dixie Seatle's Patricia is expressive and shows the hurt lurking beneath her star's bravado and -- importantly -- the reason she's critical of Michelle, but I wish Leblanc had encouraged a few moments of fire to suggest the testy, insecure jet-setter.
Patricia Hamilton's Estelle ignites the show, but only in its last half- hour. Full of energy, bursting with life and one-liner put-downs, Estelle is Tremblay's richest character in this crazy quilt of a play, which winds up being the theatrical equivalent of an evening of isolated arias from full-length works.
Maybe Impromptu speaks differently here than it did in Montreal. I can imagine a Quebec audience warming to its politics, but this translation is, in several senses, a distanced work for Toronto viewers.