by Shi Tao Zhang
More than one year after the beginning lockdown, Montreal’s cultural venues are re-opening again with the Montreal St. Ambroise International Fringe Festival. Although COVID precautions are strictly enforced at the National Monument Theatre, the audience still has the opportunity to relish a mesmerizing performance of the show Generations (directed and written by Rana Liu).
Premiered by the Blowfish Theatre Company, this spoken word production follows the conversation of a first-generation widowed immigrant mother (Uzoma Onyechekwa) and her daughter (Andrea Pavlovic). The set is simple: one table, two chairs, some kitchen accessories, and food. As the mother cooks traditional dishes and the daughter confides about her heartbreak and confusion on how to navigate adult life after graduating with an accountant degree, the two actresses delve into a touching exchange about the hardships of immigration, widowhood, cultural shock, and female emancipation. The small size of the room, which can only accommodate less than 20 spectators due to COVID measures, allows the performance to shine in all its intimacy and depth. The mother shares her wisdom when it comes to finding love and committing to a relationship, while the daughter teaches her to advocate for herself in the face of discrimination.
The scenes portray the complexity of the relationship between an immigrant mother and her Canadian daughter with striking accuracy, perfectly embodying the generational and cultural gaps between them. For instance, the mother is incensed when she learns that her daughter is turning down the opportunity to work weekend shifts for the sake of self-care, because she remembers that she could hardly find any work when she came to Montreal and had to share a sandwich with her sister just to get by. The daughter also becomes irritated when her mother singles out her freedom of relaxing on weekends as privilege, as she feels guilty at the thought of disappointing her mother. These outbursts lead to one of them storming off, while the other reflects on their fears. The mother is scared that her daughter will not be able to live a good life, while the latter is afraid of betraying her mother’s sacrifices. These inner monologues gave valuable insight into the characters’ thought process and motivations. Of course, like any other immigrant family, they make up quickly and switch to telling jokes in order to clear the air. The comedic timing is also extremely on point, with references to popular culture that made the audience laugh in order to alleviate extremely emotional moments.
All in all, Generations by the Blowfish Theatre Company is breathtakingly raw and portrays the struggles of immigration and adulthood with uncanny precision. The 30-minute performance never feels dull thanks to the myriad of topics discussed, which leaves the audience wanting more. If you are in town this weekend and is looking for a cultural event, I would definitely recommend this play without a doubt!
Generations is at the 2021 Montreal St Ambroise Fringe Festival until June 20. Tickets are available here.