Love, From Rapture to Rupture
by Kevin Prokosh
from the Winnipeg Free Press – Nov 1, 2008
It’s taken 83 years for a locally written Cercle Molière play to be translated for the mainstream English theatre audience.
That’s a pity, given that Encore, the first script imported from St. Boniface to downtown Winnipeg, turns out to be such a clever, insightful meditation on love and marriage. It makes those on this side of the Red River wonder what we have been missing all these years.
Theatre Projects Manitoba took the bold step to commission francophone playwright Marc Prescott to pen an English version of his 2003 romantic comedy, and deserves kudos for outing this overlooked work. Don’t be surprised if it soon becomes a popular play in English Canada, given its commercial accessibility and economy of cast.
The premise is brilliantly simple: A nameless couple chart their 50-year relationship by recreating their first encounter on significant anniversaries in their lives. Ma’am is a novelist and hopeless romantic who desperately wants to hold onto the passion of that magic moment forever. She writes their dialogue and is a stickler that Sir not deviate from his lines.
That is Ma’am’s fatal flaw. She thinks she can repeat the emotional intoxication of falling in love and, she is doomed to disappointment. She wants to be seduced by the exact same words and she gets her way, but time and circumstance alter their meaning and worth.
On their first anniversary, we encounter Ma’am reading and sipping wine in a bar. Sir wanders in with a pickup line about looking for his future wife. The repartee is almost Shakespearean in its flowery language, as Sir gushes about falling in love at first sight with his “gilded goddess” and being together until they are old and enfeebled.
Sir, portrayed by the ever-dependable Arne MacPherson, then launches into a 10-minute aria, rhapsodizing about their first kiss, which won spontaneous applause from the almost capacity opening-night crowd Thursday at the Rachel Browne Theatre (in the Crocus Building, 211 Bannatyne Ave.).
MacPherson, a veteran actor who rarely if ever dons such a stylish business suit, cleans up well to play Sir, a man who wants to participate in his wife’s annual game but soon sees the pointlessness of living in the past. Monique Marcker partners well with MacPherson as a woman in love with love. Her character’s body language italicizes her overt passion, impatience and resentment.
For the fifth anniversary, the same two chairs and table set are moved symbolically down what looks to be the road of life. The couple’s attempt at re-starting their personal passion play is frequently interrupted by cellphone calls from Sir’s mother, who is babysitting their sick child. Sir is sex-starved and anxious for his due while Ma’am is distracted, and they run through her lines just to get it over with.
Prescott falls back on stereotypes in depicting their celebration of a decade together. Sir arrives late, preoccupied with the seventh game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. There is a decidedly mocking tone to Ma’am’s words and she lashes out with the rude description of the favourite sexual position of hockey-obsessed husbands. His lack of interest portends a breakup at the intermission.
That is confirmed in Act 2 when an intoxicated Sir, drinking on a park bench, and a bitter Ma’am repeat their meeting separately on their 20th anniversary. Both are regretful and confused at how barely they know each other.
They meet for the silver and golden anniversaries, and those oft-repeated words have taken on completely new meanings. The come-on line of Sir looking for his wife is transformed when he appears senile. What was once used to woo now wounds or saddens.
Director Ann Hodges stages a clean, well-paced production of Encore, which has a men-are-from-Mars, women-from-Venus vibe. Prescott shows us the folly of clinging to the past and the importance of continually seducing your spouse.