I’m working on day 4 of having a cellphone/personal hate machine, and I think I’m finally starting to suss out its function. It’s there to remind you that nobody loves you, right? Also, to tell the time. Both useful functions, to be sure, and I thank my dark and hateful god for my PHM, every lonely second of every awful day. I’m thinking of loading ANGRY BIRDS, too. I hear that’s cool.
However, despite having the voice of destruction in my breast pocket, there’s still fun work to be done, ie: theatre to see and review (fun theatre fact: the reason they make you turn your cellphones off during a performance? They love you.), and in tonite’s case that was back at good old Ottawa U, and Academic Hall. Now, as a semi-useful amateur fan/reviewer, even I have learned by now that if at all possible, you don’t review preview shows, OR dress rehearsals. But in tonite’s case, I happen to have been invited to do exactly that, and so I headed out on normally dark theatre Monday to check out a much-anticipated show…MAMAMOUCHI, aka Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme, from that French rascal Moliere. The show was directed by Jodi Sprung-Boyd, who helmed last year’s dee-liteful EURYDICE and…
…okay, confession time. I had actually planned on auditioning for this show, when the offers started coming out late last year. I read the play, and even prepared a monologue from another Moliere play (which I still have half-memorized, if you should feel like challenging me to a read). But in the end I chickened out, worried that the play was more of a student thing and I’d be the creepy old man at the auditions. Which I totally WOULD have been, but I was still really intrigued to see the show…after reading the play, and realizing what a fucking funny cat Moliere WAS, little would have kept me away. And now as I HAVE seen it…shit, I wanna see it again.
The play, a skewering of class structure and ambition, centers around the hopelessly deluded Monsieur Jourdain, a working-class man of wealth who longs to be part of the ‘noble’ aristocracy. To this end, he hires several different Masters (a music master, dance master, fencing master, philosophy master…) to better him…and he perfectly fails to grasp even one of their lessons. After nearly starting a war between the lot of them, we learn that the boastful Jourdain has a hopeless crush on the Marquise Dorimene, whom he maintains contact with through the ‘friendship’ of the leeching gentleman Dorante. Meanwhile, his wife and maid suffer his indignities, while his daughter is denied the marriage to her love she desires, because he lacks the station Jourdain holds above all else.
Amidst all this class warfare and self-hatred/delusion, a fantastic show emerges. From the opening moments in the lobby where the action gets underway, to the astonishingly opulent set decoration awaiting inside the theatre, Jodi has managed to quietly put together what I’m happily calling one of the most outstandingly fun shows of the year in this town. Set to a rousing musical score by Jean-Baptiste de Lully, and featuring loads of positively gorgeous singing and dancing (worthy of the masters indeed), MAMAMOUCHI is a joyous, raucous hit from moment one. And I admit…I was kinda tired when I arrived, and when I saw in the program that the runtime was 2 and a 1/2 HOURS…I kinda cringed. I didn’t know if I’d make it that long. But trust me…you won’t want it to end.
The performances are solid all around, and in some cases just bloody wonderful. Alexandre Gauthier fucking KILLS it as Monsieur Jourdain, dimwit and underdog all in one. Zach Raynor does epic double-shift work as both the Dance Master, and the scheming fop Dorante, and excels at both roles. Likewise Dramturge Adriane Epprecht as the Music Master and loudmouth maid Nicole, a joy every moment on stage. Matthew Harding as the slightly-too emphatic Philosophy Master and hopeful boyfriend Cleonte, does great work here, as well as his man Friday Covielle, aka Kyle Cunningham (who himself doubles as the splendidly dismissive Tailor earlier on). And Mado Manseau knocks it out of the park several times as Jourdain’s wife, easily the most sensible member of the mostly insane cast. Jess laFrance as Dorimene, hoop skirt and all, is perfectly endearing, as well as Rideau-award nominated Cory Thibert and Tony Adams as the ever-present lackeys of Jourdain, lending new meaning to the term ‘supporting role’. Seriously, they have to lift things a LOT.
The show is a gem, a perfect fun ride from beginning to end, and as crowded as my current week is already, I’m trying to figure out a way to see it again. The name of the show, MAMAMOUCHI, is taken from a nonsense word used in a closing-act deception against the witless Jourdain that culminates in a musical number that will be hard to beat for sheer fun in this theatre year. Gotta mention the choreography from Rachel O’Brien, and Pirate Jenny Gabby Lalonde, as well as the wicked costumes from Patrice-Ann Forbes. And, well…everything else. It’s so much god-damn fun…why are you still reading this? Clear your evening, because this only runs until the 31st (tho I personally think they should consider extending it an extra week).
Also, there’s dancing at the end. What more do ya want? Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)