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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reader's Diary #293- Michel Tremblay: Forever Yours Marie-Lou (FINISHED)

The first time I'd heard of Michel Tremblay it was concerning his book The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant. The title seemed hilarious and I made a point then and there to read something written by this Tremblay character.

Shortly after, and before ordering it online, I happened to find another Tremblay book at a library sale. It wasn't the book I wanted, but at 10 cents I thought it could serve as a Tremblay primer.

Forever Yours Marie-Lou is not, however, a novel. It is a play. It is also not funny. Nor does it try to be. But what it is, is wonderful.

Having only four actors, the plot is not overly complicated. However, the set-up is unique and I so badly wish I had seen it performed. Two daughters, Carmen and Manon, are at center stage (in a kitchen) and they are recalling an event with their parents that happened ten years ago. On either side of the stage are the two parents: Marie-Lou (sitting in front of a T.V.) and Leopold (in a tavern).

Here's where it gets tricky. Despite being at either ends of the stage, Leopold and Marie-Lou are actually having a conversation- a conversation that by now is ten years old. Intertwined with it is the present day conversation of Carmen and Manon. Essentially, the parent dialogue feels like the memory that haunts the daughters. Perhaps I should give an example:

Carmen: If I'd known you were serious, I'd have strangled you on the spot.

Marie-Louise: I'm going to have a baby. You know what that means, six months of it.

Leopold: I don't want to hear about it.

Marie-Louise: That's right, shut me up. You'd like that, wouldn't you, to spend the rest of your life blindfold?

Manon: Say what you like, I couldn't care less.

What makes it so captivating is how the conversations usually flow together. Often the mood matches perfectly: when the parents are at their angriest, so are the girls. Occasionally the girls even seem to respond to something, or use some of the exact words, that a parent said so many years ago. Surprisingly, it isn't confusing at all.

As a facade, it might be called a mystery. What did happen all those years ago? But really, at the heart of this story is the family, the cycles of history, and defining moments in our characters. Mostly, it is easy to elements of the mother in Manon and the father in Carmen. But from time to time, we see the opposite. Both daughters have inherited their personalities, whether they choose to believe it or not.

Forever Yours Marie-Lou is masterfully crafted, taking rather old themes and presenting them in a novel way.

5 comments:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I would love to see this performed. I really like the concept and I can see it being really engrossing. Your theatre troupe should perform it.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I think I'll bring it up to them.

Stephanie said...

This sounds really good!! I've never even heard of Michel Tremblay, but I have to tell you, the title, The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant is utterly hilarious!

John Mutford said...

Stephanie: Yeah, it's one of those you want to read just for the title alone.

matt said...

I saw a performance of this play in 1987 during my first semester at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. It was my introduction to serious adult theater (as opposed to the musicals and comedies that I saw throughout high school), and it hit me like a fist, powerful and painful.