“Forever Yours Marie-Lou” an aria

By Alidor Aucoin on May 1, 2008

Forever Yours Marie-Lou is one of Michel Tremblay’s early works— he was 27 when he wrote it in 1970, and the script is full of youthful rage and indignation.

It’s an aria—verbal chamber music —about the suicidal consequences of sexual repression, Catholic guilt, and loveless marriage.

The Centaur’s production of the Tremblay classic which opened last week, is inventive and worthwhile, even though director Sarah Garton Stanley and her cast hit some wrong notes along the way.

The script explores  how a dysfunctional family “ends up alone together”, as two sisters, Carmen and Manon, imagine the voices of their dead parents, Marie-Lou and Léopold, who killed themselves in a car accident 10 years earlier.

“We’re all screwballs. Every god damn one of us,” Léopold explodes at one point as he and his wife argue.  But even screwballs need to be vulnerable to be sympathetic, and the three women in the show work hard, but don’t quite penetrate the sympathy in the script so an audience can empathize with their predicament.

Catherine Fitch as Marie-Louise is all wasp, all sting. There is none of the tough matriarchal appeal of French- Canadian women in her. She’s shrill, abusive, not sardonic. One of her best moments is to listen as she spits out the word pleasure as an epithet.

 Holly O’Brien is too vanilla, too antiseptic as Carmen  the daughter who has gone off  to The Main to become a promiscuous country singer, and Anthousa Harris as Manon, the devout, religious introvert, resembles a surreal portrait of Mother Theresa.

Only Alain Goulem, as the beer-swilling, Léopold, brow-beaten by his wife’s invective, conveys a subtle but poignant sense of remorse for the pain he may have caused the family.

Brian Smith’s set is a bit too overdone, Luc Prairie’s lighting at times a little too pointed and the final tableau is way over the top.

This Tremblay work is frozen in a particular Quebec time frame.

If it is to be re-imagined and made to resonate with a new generation of theatregoers, less, not more, is required.


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