By James Keller
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again opens by telling you what you’re not about to see.
"No ghosts will come to haunt the battlements of a castle in the Kingdom of Denmark where, apparently, something is rotten," the narrator begins. "You won’t see a brute of a man rip his sweat-drenched T-shirt, shouting: ‘Stella! Stella!’"
He was right. We didn’t see any of this. The script wasn’t complicated, nor were its characters. And the story, well, there wasn’t much of a story.
However, this isn’t a criticism. In fact, the play’s simple nature and straightforward approach is what gives it its appeal.
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, ATP’s newest production, examines the narrator’s memories of his late mother, Nana, from his childhood onward–undoubtedly modelled after playwright Michel Tremblay’s own. The audience gets small snapshots of their relationship. Ending with his mother’s death, the play doesn’t follow any specific story, but rather a loose and very incomplete timeline of their lives together.
Throughout the play, Nana speaks for hours on end about what could be deemed trivialities. Whether she blows the situation of her son coming home with the police way out of proportion, or she’s going on about the history of France, she keeps the audience and her son entertained and intrigued. In all honesty, Nana is everything good we remember about our own mothers. Her sense of humour and stories captivate you as you share her life. She’s exactly as Tremblay wanted to remember her and as he wanted audiences to see her.
The production was also beautifully done. With a simple set to match a beautifully simple script, we move through their lives and watch their relationships grow with few distractions. Like the narrator’s opening, "there will be none of the usual theatrics," we were spared from elaborate scenes, complicated dialogue and inside jokes. For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again has a universal appeal that nostalgically makes us think of our mothers.
The acting was equally impressive. Sharon Bakker’s portrayal of the long-winded Nana keeps the audience captivated and intrigued. The lifetime of experience and her sometimes neurotic nature really shines through Bakker’s performance. Likewise, David LeReany’s depiction of the remembering son is just as convincing.
Acting, set and production aside, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again’s real shining spot is how audiences will connect with the story and characters. Tremblay remembers his mother the way we would all like to. He remembers good moments where they shared their stories and laughed, and others where they got on each other’s nerves but never worried about going too far.
The play’s program warns that "she’ll talk a blue streak," and it was right. But didn’t our mothers do the same from time to time? I wouldn’t want to forget that for a second and neither did Tremblay.