A Nicaraguan I once knew, told me that he no longer knew who he was. When he went “home” to Nicaragua, he spoke the language, but he no longer shared the experiences or attitudes or even beliefs of his family and friends. In Quebec he felt the burn of discrimination, and the violence of xenophobia. Me and You by Talia Halmona and Pascal Brullemans (trans. Alison Bowie, dir. Arianna Bardesono) describes this dissonance and alienation with a few deft and clearly written scenes.
There was a very slow beginning to this play which in retrospect is incomprehensible; the entire stage was covered in hanging and standing light bulbs which were unattractive and sometimes over-used. The actors were very good and Miriam Katrib managed to convey the confusion and pathos of the immigrant first generation with tremendous energy. Kathleen Stavert gave and outstanding performance as the Quebecois girl who befriends Talia, and tries to teach her in one of the most comic scenes how to attract French boys.
The writing and the translation were competent although there was no moment of catharsis in the show and one wished for a clearer emotional journey for the main character. The best writing was by quoted authors, and the monologue from Scorched was an example of a truly amazing script. Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” was also beautifully integrated into the text. One wanted a more layered and complex language to express the truth of the conundrum the lead character was experiencing.
I realise there is an industry of plays by “diverse authors” and I heartily approve of it. I also believe that this playwright was aiming at a younger audience and those who came to see it felt a bit confused by the play. This mandate of translating French plays into English is only worthy if there were English plays translated into French, which is usually not the case. As the play so clearly states, one needs to tell one’s story, and in this province the story should be in both official languages.
Me and You is at the MAI (3680 Jeanne Mance) until May 22. 8 p.m. $25. Tickets HERE.