This is going to be a rather short review because I have no criticisms to make and no interesting insights to add about last night’s show, For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again by Michel Tremblay. The play, written a dozen years ago, is a love letter to the author’s long-dead mother, the formative influence on his life. It is a rare thing to make a love letter both dramatic and moving. There are plenty of mothers on the stage who get their moment of love and recognition at the end – even Mama Rose gets hers – but only after two and a half hours of battle. But Tremblay’s mother, Nana, is obviously loved from the moment she appears on stage, even though one can see quite clearly how Tremblay as a young man might not have felt the same as he does at age fifty-five writing the play. Again, a rare thing: a tribute that lets you see the real person. And, about fifteen minutes in, you realize that this woman isn’t precisely who you thought she was, but something far more interesting and intelligent, and you see that Tremblay, when he credits her with his success, is not only crediting her for his flashing wit or his flair for the dramatic, but for something deeper, a talent for meaning more than on the surface seems.
The tiny cast is perfectly matched with their roles. Tom Rooney, as the Narrator, who must go in and out of the mind of the young Tremblay at ages ten, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen and twenty, expertly avoids the twin dangers of too much distance (if he stays outside watching the scene, so will we) and a closeness that amounts to impersonation (since he is not, in fact, playing a child, but a recollection of childhood). And Lucy Peacock makes a superb Nana, again executing a balancing act of seeming a bit foreign (she’s a Quebecois of the 1950s) while never putting up an accent or tics of characterization as a barrier. We are there with her as much as we are with him – Tremblay has, indeed, given us the pleasure of seeing his mother again, and it sure is a pleasure. And if we could all, one day, come to feel as generous towards our mothers as Tremblay is with his final gift, well, this would be a much happier planet.
Go see it. Take your mother if you can. Take your sister, your brother, your cousin, your best friend if you can’t. Take kleenex. Take the pleasure of seeing her again, and again.