An ear to the wall

At a time when Montreal is putting its best face forward for the 1976 Olympics and Canada is still dealing with the aftermath of the FLQ crisis, a young working-class Montrealer is facing a more personal dilemma.

Benjamin Terlesky’s Armand listens as Serge

At a time when Montreal is putting its best face forward for the 1976 Olympics and Canada is still dealing with the aftermath of the FLQ crisis, a young working-class Montrealer is facing a more personal dilemma.

Serge, the protagonist in Michel Tremblay’s play Bonjour, La, Bonjour, has returned home from a sojourn in Europe realizing he has to find his own happiness.

Unfortunately, he also realizes his unruly and oppressive French Canadian family is standing directly in his way.

Whether Serge can manage his nosy aunts, bossy sisters and withdrawn father, and still disclose a deeply-held secret, will be revealed when the one-act drama, staged by Red Deer College Theatre Studies students, opens on Thursday.

Director Thomas Usher loves the complicated family dynamics of this play, as well as the colourful language and great roles it offers.

But it’s the underlying theme of Bonjour, La, Bonjour that he believes will resonate with audiences.

Like many young adults, Serge struggles to extricate himself from binding family ties, as well as to brush aside expectations of how he is to live his life without hurting other people, said Usher.

“He has to see if he can break free from their clutches and still call them on their bad behaviour.”

In short, Serge has to find his backbone.

Tremblay is known for his unflinching ability to write truthfully about family dysfunction, working-class angst and even cultural division. Bonjour, La, Bonjour, which the Quebec playwright considers his best play, delivers on all three fronts, with insight, precision and humour.

Serge’s live-in family includes his elderly reticent father, two overly involved aunts and some judgmental sisters.

Everyone is living on the financial edge. But when an aunt marries an Anglais to improve her economic status, the rest of the family never forgives her, said Usher. “Nobody likes her or has much to do with her.”

The play touches on a personal secret that Serge is reluctant to reveal about one of his sisters, and examines the universal themes of searching for love and identity in an unexpected way.

It’s very reflective of the 1970s, said Usher, with its Me-Decade theme of “free to be you and me,” and Pierre Trudeau’s famous pronouncement, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

“The idea of being trapped by your culture plays on several different levels.”

The eight college actors in the cast had a great time contributing ideas toward their ’70s-themed costumes, said Usher. They also learned about the French Canadian culture of three decades ago, and the working-class joual slang that Tremblay used in his plays.

Usher believes audience members who see this English-language version of Bonjour, La, Bonjour will feel at times “like they are peeping at their neighbours, or putting their ear to the wall of the apartment next door. They might shake their heads at the behaviour, then bless themselves because they aren’t part of such a dysfunctional family.”

At the same time, he believes some of the familial behaviour will be so familiar, people will laugh because a scene rings so true.

Who: RDC Theatre Studies presents the play Bonjour, La, Bonjour, by Michel Tremblay (translated by Bill Glassco)

When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8 to 10, Oct. 14 to 17 (1 p.m. matinee on Oct. 17)

Where: Studio A, RDC Arts Centre

Tickets: $17 ($13 students, $12 seniors) plus taxes and service charges, Ticketmaster

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia will head to the polls today… Continue reading

All sharks tagged in N.S. expedition can now be tracked on Ocearch website

HALIFAX — All six of the sharks tagged in Nova Scotian waters… Continue reading

Memorial service for former PQ minister Lise Payette today in Montreal

MONTREAL — Mourners will gather to remember former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister… Continue reading

Immunotherapy scores a first win against some breast cancers

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown… Continue reading

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Most Read