Review: Le Passé antérieur/Past Perfect (Théâtre français de Toronto)

Past Perfect Albertine Alex

Théâtre français de Toronto presents Michel Tremblay’s play Past Perfect / Le Passé antérieur

All talk, no action — that’s Past Perfect/Le Passé antérieur by Michel Tremblay. Playing at the Théâtre français de Toronto, this French-language story about love lost offers English surtitles on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Geneviève Dufour plays Tremblay’s passionate, broken-hearted star character Albertine. Dumped by Alex, the man she longed to marry, Albertine can’t bear the fact that Alex is courting her younger, mild-mannered sister. Albertine is unhappy, and misery sure loves company. Everyone who crosses paths with Albertine — her mother Victoire, her sister Madeleine, her brother Edouard, her ex-boyfriend Alex — must be made painfully aware of every single tear she has shed.

Dufour’s acting was superb. Under Diana Leblanc’s direction, Dufour shares the intensity of Albertine’s personality, without ever over-playing the role or becoming tiresome. She displays sensitivity, endurance and finesse.

The set was simple, and rightfully so. Designed by Glenn Charles Landry, it consisted of a sofa and two small tables. The plainness of the set accomplished two things for me: we paid attention to the words, not the visual elements, and the bareness brought out the great poverty.

While a fancy black hat was a sign of dignity for Albertine’s mother (who married an absent drunkard who neglects his janitorial duties), another important prop — cigarettes — showed us how nervous and unstable Albertine was. So if you’re sitting in the front row, you might feel the effects of Albertine’s chain-smoking, just like her family members.

Past Perfect is not that kind of play that you see and exclaim, “Wow, that was amazing!” Instead it leads you to ask your theatre companion, “Was Albertine really in love with Alex, or was she just in love with the idea of being in love? Was she truly passionate or just selfish? What did you think of Alex’s idea of marriage? What about the stories told by Albertine’s mother, sister and brother?”

My friend loved the ending (spoiler alert): after Albertine is told several times that she will never get Alex, and that she needs to snap out of selfish, manipulative ways, she winds up alone, sitting on the living room floor. She is defeated. But instead of vowing to move on with her life, Albertine tearfully declares she’ll become a black diamond, hardened and black. This drama queen is going to be unbearable at least a little while longer.

English Surtitles

You don’t need to speak French or be fluent in Montreal French from the 1930s to enjoy Past Perfect — just follow the surtitles. You’ll still be able to experience Tremblay’s carefully crafted world of heartbreak and disappointment.

Details

  • Past Perfect is playing from September 24 to October 5 at the Théâtre français de Toronto (26 Berkeley Street)
  • Performances Wednesday to Saturday are at 8 PM, Saturday matinees on September 27 and October 4 at 3:30 PM, Sunday matinees on September 28 and October 5 at 2:30 PM
  • Shows feature English surtitles on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Saturday matinees at 3:30 PM
  • Tickets $33 to $57, seniors 65 years and over $28 to $57, under 30 for $30 Special discounts: PWYC on Wednesdays and $20 rush tickets on Saturday evenings (in both cases, buy tickets only at the door, one hour prior to performance, cash only)
  • Box office: see theatrefrancais.com or call 416-534-6604 or 1-800-819-4981

Photo of Geneviève Dufour and Nico Racicot by Marc Lemyre