1 min

Plump accusations

Nana is Tremblay's scourge and mentor

UPROARIOUS. Nicola Cavendish gives a wildly entertaining yet warm-hearted performance in Michel Tremblay's theatrical tribute to his mother. Credit: Xtra files

On a dark stage adorned with little more than a round table and two chairs, the narrator forewarns us that no one in this story will carry on like some character out of Shakespeare or the Greeks, Genet or Beckett, O’Neil or Williams.

He needn’t have bothered.

For The Pleasure Of Seeing Her Again is not so much a play as a series of dialogues between a formidable mother and her son (at various moments of his boyhood, adolescence and youth).

Even at that, the dialogue (well translated by Linda Gaboriau and competently directed by Gordon McCall) segués into long, amusing monologues by Nana, the very incarnation of momism, who almost smothers with stubborn love as much as she liberates with excited language and hyperbolic imagination.

Nana is playwright Michel Tremblay’s scourge and mentor, his plump accuser who talks a blue streak, his greatest entertainer with a whirlwind of anecdotes, his inspiration for fiction and drama.

The narrator-son would have you believe that she is Everywoman, that she is one of us. Don’t accept this at face value, for in Nicola Cavendish’s amazingly vivid performance, she is transcendental. In a checkered apron and sturdy shoes, she has the energy of a dynamo.

From first amusingly exaggerated accusation to final, poignant confession, she is the stressed working-class housewife and mother as would-be-artist.

As Dennis O’Connor uses his grizzled, burly charm to take a few satiric swipes at her, Cavendish gathers up all the facets of a mocking yet warm-hearted maman, a melodramatic fabricator of tales with a touching naiveté. Whether threatening her son with reform school over a harmless prank or mimicking the faults of family members, Cavendish is a riot. After entertaining us for most of the show, she then touches our hearts with her transition into an ailing, cancer-ridden woman who frets over her son’s unsettled future.

She knows all too well that he wants to be an artist, part of a world of illusion, but she dies without knowing how theatrical illusion works.

Her son rewards her in this play with a worthy exit. He devises a marvellous finale which is magnificently designed by John Dinning. The buoyant ending lifts Nana into the heavens and brings an entire, wildly applauding audience to its feet.

For The Pleasure Of Seeing Her Again continues at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St E) till Sat, May 13; call (416) 368-3110.