Prof. Sehdev Kumar
TORONTO: A sense of ennui – a certain weariness of the heart – can grip anyone when life seems more like some rut than a challenge or a joy. How does one cope with it? How does one move on and achieve certain happiness in the very act of living?
And Slowly Beauty … is an engaging play about such a man in the midst of an existential crisis. Based on a French play by Michel Nadeau, and translated imaginatively by Maureen Labonté, and directed with verve by Michael Shamata at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, the play tells the story of every man who feels, for any set of reasons, caught in the rut of life.
A subject like this can easily turn into something heavy and sombre. But this play has lightness, humour and pace that keep its difficult and probing moments light and very engaging. For this the credit goes to an excellent cast of actors. With Dennis Fitzgerald in the lead as Mr. Mann, and supported by uniformly excellent actors – who assume many different roles in the play – it becomes a story of every person who has ever stopped to wonder about the journey of one’s life.
The play is also a great tribute to the power of literature and theatre; it is the play Three Sisters by Chekov that suggests some direction to Mann’s restlessness. Watching it quite unexpectedly, Mann is touched by certain words in the play: “Migratory birds – cranes … they just fly, fly, fly and whatever thoughts, big or small, may be going through their minds, they will continue flapping their wings without knowing where they’re going or why they’re going there.”
These and other words suddenly open a floodgate of emotions for Mann, and he begins to discover certain beauty in all that was mundane to him earlier. Indeed, slowly certain beauty begins to open up for him. Its opening is equally touching for all of in the audience.
The Tarragon Theatre in Toronto has deservedly high reputation for presenting new Canadian plays of outstanding quality.
But Canada being what it is, the plays may be set – and often are – in any part of the world: India, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Scotland, or Cape Breton. However, wherever they may be set, Tarragon actors and directors present them with imagination and wit. Earlier, Tarragon presented Ravi Jain’s Brimful of Asha about finding a bride in India; the show was so well-received, that by popular demand it is coming back.
From the warm reception of And Slowly Beauty … by large and enthusiastic audience, it would seem that Tarragon has added yet another fine and engaging production to its repertoire.
And Slowly Beauty… continues at Tarragon until March 31. For tickets contact www.tarragontheatre.com.
(Prof Sehdev Kumar lectures on International Cinema at the University of Toronto)