Theatre Preview: Wine in French high society

The rules dictate strip poker is assumed to be hilarious. Whether drunk off gin in university, or having a few too many bottles of wine in your thirties, it’s always uproarious. That is until an argument about the baby monitor breaks out. The rules command by the time we reach our mid-thirties we are married with kids, a house, jobs and married friends with the same mid-thirties sensibilities.

“Peter [John Kirkpatrick] and Mary [Karen Johnson-Diamond] have everything: the house with the in-ground swimming pool out back, the kid, the plans to adopt a baby from China, the fabulous vacations in Cuba,” says ATP Artistic Director and director of The Leisure Society Bob White. “But they’ve lost contact with one another and lost their souls. What the play examines is how everything they’ve invested in is bankrupt.”

Peter and Mary, abiding by the rules, have been married five and a half years­–they’re living the life with all the appropriate cliches.

Unfortunately there is nothing in their lives holding them together– they’re slowly drifting away. In their prescribed, fashionable living room they sit with their embarrassing friend they no longer want to see. The couple plan to tell Mark (Trevor Leigh) he doesn’t fit into their lives over dinner, but he arrives with his “friend” Paula (Brieanna Moench). She’s dressed in a matching sateen pants-bustier set and brings along a box of wine.

A couple in the upwardly mobile class set wouldn’t appreciate a cardboard container of wine. But in Montreal? In Montreal, where they feign being French, the rule about never drinking alcohol out of a tetra-pack is everlasting. Originally written in French by playwright François Archambault as a commentary on Montreal society, ATP commissioned Bobby Theodore to translate the piece as part of this year’s playRites Festival.

“The aim of the festival is to showcase Canadian playwrights, to provide a snapshot of new Canadian works and so every year there’s a translation,” explains White. “This year the challenge was not only translating it, but North Americanizing it.”

The translation process involved more than just converting words from one language to another. The goal became to make the story accessible to citizens of all cities, not just Montreal, where it premiered two years ago.

“We started rehearsing in the beginning of December. Since then the script has changed countless times,” says White. “The cast would go away for a day and come back with suggestions, maybe a proverb here or a cliche there.”

Sitting on stage, the cast waits to start the strip poker scene–A man and two women fully dressed fidget while a man at first in a dressing robe and later only his tighty-whities, rests his yuppy attire on the white sofa. They laugh and giggle, waiting for their cue to start. The play itself is funny, but any humour doesn’t override the absolute honesty in which the play is staged.

“It’s the kind of play you come across maybe once in a decade,” concludes White.

With an endorsement like that from ATP’s artistic director, what more needs to be said?

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