THE REAL WORLD? by Michel Tremblay, directed by Barbara Larose, with Josh Bloch, John Healy, Andy Fraser Rhodes, Adrienne Rogers, David Austin, Sharon Marquez and Dinah Watts. Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley). Runs to December 6, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $15, Thursday two-for-one, Sunday pwyc. 416-364-4170. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
How much can you mine from your own family to write a play? In Michel Tremblay 's The Real World? , Claude ( Josh Bloch ) creates a fictional clan that mirrors his true one, but it's questionable whether he satisfies anyone's needs but his own. Tremblay brings onstage the angry young writer's philandering father, downtrodden mother and bouncy sister ( John Healy , Andy Fraser Rhodes and Adrienne Rogers ) as well as Claude's own version of them ( David Austin , Dinah Watts and Sharon Marquez ). They sometimes echo overlapping lines but offer differing takes on events - the real family ignores the father's indiscretions, the fictional one confronts him. The two sets of characters both point out Claude's insecurities and judgments about the past and present.
Director Barbara Larose 's production, strongly cast, emphasizes the central father/son tension from the start, but it's the mothers who have many of the work's key emotional scenes. Rhodes's long-suffering Madeleine starts out too quietly, but she ultimately reveals the internal horrors she hides, while the marvellous Watts keeps the fictional Madeleine's anger just short of a boil, with frustrated tears at the corner of her eye.
The two daughters, Rogers and Marquez, aren't especially complex - that's partly the writing - but the fathers are more detailed, with Austin as the shown-up blowhard and Healy finely nuanced as the alternately joking, fearful, bullying, sincere paterfamilias who isn't the monster his son thinks.
The best Alumnae production in several years.