Berry Sweet Strawberries in January a Warm Look at Love

Olivier Lamarche (Robert), Karine Lefebvre (Sophie), Simon P. Therrien (François) Olivier Lamarche (Robert), Karine Lefebvre (Sophie), Simon P. Therrien (François) . Strawberries in January. Photo Robby Reis

Persephone Production’s Strawberries in January (dir. Davide Chiazzese) tells the story of two men and two women who weave in and out of love, hate, and friendship. In celebration of Montreal’s bilingualism, it plays in English and French on alternate nights.

What sweet, lovely, simple, chick-flicky goodness. Strawberries in January did not try to give too much depth and/or meaning, but it did not shortchange itself either. It existed perfectly within its own scope. While the impromptu dance scenes (one of which was a love triangle tango à la Moulin Rouge), helpful coincidences, and inevitable yet highly unrealistic ending were cheesy and unbelievable, this play’s illustration of the joys and pains of being in love hit right close to home.

Olivier Lamarche (Robert) & Tania Dos Santos (Lea)

Olivier Lamarche (Robert) & Tania Dos Santos (Lea) in Strawberries in January. Photo Robby Reis.

The acting was sublime. What really stood out was how every actor seemed to embody the age of their characters. Too many plays about young adults feel like they are about sixteen-year-olds. It’s true, young adult malaise is hard to translate – it’s much simpler to fall into the nasty, sticky realm of teen angst. And if that sinkhole is avoided, the effort to do so can propel the poor actor into seeming like a weary fifty-something. Not in Strawberries in January, though. The balance between experience and immaturity, naivety and wisdom, was perfect. I particularly enjoyed the many moods of Francois, and his complete shit-loss when his One True Love started dating his best friend was tragic and side-splittingly hilarious.

Karine Lefebvre (Sophie) & Simon P. Therrien (François) in Strawberries in January

Karine Lefebvre (Sophie) & Simon P. Therrien (François) in Strawberries in January. Photo Robby Reis.

The best friend in question, Sophie, was wonderful at flickering between being a normal, slightly zany chick flick heroine à la Meg Ryan, and the vixen with whom our two main men were infatuated. Just as everyone else, she was a cliché, but a cliché that was alive and kicking, delighting in every trope.

Karine Lefebvre (Sophie) & Simon P. Therrien (François)

Strawberries in January. Karine Lefebvre (Sophie) & Simon P. Therrien (François). Photo Robby Reis.

The music was a mix of French and English. It was a cheerful, soft, romantic assortment, and it really built up the atmosphere. It was very present without being intrusive. The set was simple, striking, and lovely. It consisted of the counter of the coffee shop where our romantic lead works, with a bright red coffee machine on one side. It was clean and pleasant to look at without being pretentious, and was in look and feel very “Montreal.” In fact, the whole energy of the play was very “Montreal,” as it was indeed set in Montreal, but the audience was, mercifully, not bashed over the head with it.

Strawberries in January is lovely play that delivers exactly what it promises – and is a perfect play to see for a romantic spring date.

Strawberries in January plays at Centre Culturel Calixa-Lavallée
(3819, rue Calixa-Lavallée). Shows are as follows: April 26 at 8:00 pm (in English); April 27 at 2:00 pm (in English); April 30 at 8:00 pm (en français); May 1 at 8:00 pm (in English); May 2 at 8:00 pm (en français); May 3 at 8:00 pm (in English). $20/27

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