For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
Directed by John Vreeke
B. Holmes and C. Flye
What The Critics Are Saying About For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
“earthy, effervescent…an unabashedly loving tribute…a woman who ranked up there with Chaucer and Moliere in her skill at exaggeration and daggered humor…a Rabelasian heartiness…an entertaining raconteur--Nana has the soul of an artist…Miss Flye is an ideal fit for the part of Nana. With her loopy, expressive body language and hectic delivery, Miss Flye can sell a story like nobody’s business…she could make a trip to the grocery store seem like a five-act Greek tragedy, only funnier…about the power of imagination…potent and lingering…”
is at the heart of this piece and makes it a very human heart indeed. The character she creates has enough capacity to
frustrate and irritate her son to keep the portrait from being cloying,
while filling the hall with the tenderness and love that his recollections
bring to the fore. She’s funny as well, delivering
Tremblay’s flood of tiny details and strong memories with energy and flair…‘she
takes over the stage the minute she arrives, she fills it, dominates it,
makes it her kingdom. It is her space.’” A
Brad Hathaway, potomacstages.com
“sensitive…humorous…heartily recommended for its stunning performance by Catherine Flye…a three credit course in the fine art of acting…”
“Audiences at MetroStage can have the pleasure of seeing Catherine Flye again in a lovely new, two-person show…emotional sweetness…intellectual honesty…a charming, heart warming and highly entertaining evening.”Brad Hathaway,
'For the Pleasure': Tapping a Mother Lode
By Nelson Pressley
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The usual rule is that when a son writes a play about his mother, she should look out. But Canadian writer Michel Tremblay goes against convention in the mannerly and sentimental "For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again." The two-character play, being cautiously performed at Alexandria's MetroStage, is an adoring memoir, and Tremblay's affection is so complete that he gives his mother the stage in every conceivable way.
For Nana, as the mother figure is called here, it would have been a thrill to be in that unfathomable land where artists dwell -- "on the other side," she calls it. Tremblay obviously gets a kick out of putting her there, and he keeps himself -- the narrator, that is -- well out of the way; the limelight is strictly for Nana. (Well, it is until Tremblay unveils his nifty little coup de theatre at the end.) At MetroStage, Bruce M. Holmes plays the son, and for almost the entire 90 minutes he sits on one side of the stage and listens as Catherine Flye, oddly but forgivably bringing a bit of her native Britain to this Quebecois figure, chatters and scolds and dominates conversations as only an iron-willed mother can.
Tremblay writes about the narrator/son in his formative years, as he grows from a teenager old enough to talk back a little, to a young man old enough to be out on his own (and nearly fully out of the closet; Nana has a tacit understanding that her son is gay). From his chair on the side, Holmes plays the kid without a lot of adolescent-style folderol. He sends his lines toward Flye in a straightforward way, sensibly offering the young Tremblay's arguments and watching in awe as Flye's Nana replies with logic that lifts and twists and blows smoke like a stunt plane.
"I've learned to let you talk," the narrator says to her when he's a little older. "It's funnier."
True enough, at least some of the time. Flye's a hoot, full of righteous criticism and vivid detail as Nana reenacts the time she reluctantly went to see her niece in a school recital ("a vision of horror," Nana says). More often, you can sense Tremblay scrutinizing Nana's baffling answers for kernels of sense. Why, for instance, is Nana so stuck on low-grade melodramatic literature? Can't she tell it's not remotely real?
Well, sure she can, up to a point, and then why not let go? The best part of "For the Pleasure" is the sly revelation of what this relationship led to: the subtle exchange of cynical critical distance for openhearted, wide-ranging imagination. It's a sweet family portrait.
It is not, however, a snap to make this quirky character study feel full-bodied, and it's a bit curious that MetroStage -- which usually offers works that aren't done elsewhere -- is reviving a piece that Arena Stage did (not memorably) five years ago. Director John Vreeke handles the actors sensitively, but he heaps the pressure on Flye, asking her to entertain us almost single-handedly. She spends virtually every minute smack in the middle of set and lighting designer Daniel Conway's drab brown decor, looking like your garden variety dotty woman in a plaid apron with pockets big enough to hold a bushel of apples.
The less colorful passages still seem a bit perplexing to Flye, especially as the show gets started, but she's on very solid ground whenever the material is funny or touching. She's particularly insightful when Nana gets starry-eyed about the lives of people on "the other side," those artists whose number will soon include her son. That adds to the poignancy of Tremblay's fail-safe ending, when he offers his sickly mother the stage in a more figurative way. By then, the theatrical flourish that Tremblay engineers -- think "Finding Neverland" -- seems like perfect repayment for gifts that may have been unwitting, but were lavish nonetheless.
MetroStage offers a tender valentine to a late mother
There is an unexpected abundance of mined wit and humor in Michel Tremblay's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at Alexandria's MetroStage, a tender and affectionate valentine to the playwright's late mother. Sprawling over ten of his most impressionable years, Tremblay's two-character script is practically a one-woman monologue that unfolds over the course of ninety minutes.
In an energetic flurry of memory and emotion, Catherine Flye crafts a profound performance as the narrator's mother, an instantly recognizable figure of all that is maternal. She is not unlike a universe of mothers past and present who dote and dream and criticize, exaggerating the truth just a wee bit to illustrate points already well made. Flye is a nervous Nelly of a mum, prone to vivid hyperbole (''He doesn't like my cooking; he's going to kill me'') and gluttonous fits of melodrama in an exhausting, highly physical interpretation.
As her bemused (and barely closeted) son, Bruce M. Holmes has little to do other than open the act with an extended bit about what his play is not. After introducing his histrionic subject -- ''Words were her weapons,'' he explains -- Holmes fades into the background to observe his mother's storytelling until he must react to it. Here, Holmes displays the unnatural talent of relinquishing the floor to Flye while also staying engaged in her relentless banter.
Linda Gaboriau is credited with translating the words of one of Canada's most prolific and most lauded playwrights, and there are some particularly lovely moments in Tremblay's tribute, including a humorous passage about Tremblay's interest in literature at an early age and a poignant observation by his mother on the unique and isolated relationship between actor and audience.
All of Tremblay's memories play out in a fluid, faultless production under the direction of John Vreeke, culminating in one of the most moving and memorable endings the theatre arts can produce. When Tremblay's mother must finally surrender to the sickness that took her life, Vreeke stages a beautifully ephemeral and graceful journey for a mother and her grateful son.
A CurtainUp DC Review
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
by Rich See
Michael Tremblay's two-person piece about a man who envisions visiting with his deceased mother is a gently sweet production that looks at the "every mother" who has been a staple of humanity since man and womankind first walked the earth. The caregiver and protector of her family who is not without her own flaws, she raises her children in the hopes that they will surpass her own achievements, while never surpassing their need for her care or nurturing. In America, she's the middle class Mom; more flesh, blood and opinionated than Mrs. Cleaver, yet still there with the cookies when you need a treat.
A homage to his own imaginative and loving mother, Tremblay starts his play when the narrator is ten years old and has just been caught throwing iceballs at passing vehicles by a neighborhood policeman. Over the course of the ninety-minute show, you see how the mother/son relationship changes, but the core of it remains the same. Mother teaches son, son teaches mother and the two worry about each other as their lives progress and their stories intertwine. Developed in five segments, which follow the narrator until he is twenty-two and attending graphic design school, there is almost as much unstated in the mother/son dynamic as is stated. It's the reading between the lines, the emotions underlying the words, that pulls us into the play and keeps us riveted as we watch the two discuss French novels, Saturday night dinners, relatives and laundry accidents.
Filled with humor and some touching sadness, the piece pulls at our sentimental heartstrings without becoming maudlin or saccharine. Which is a testament to the author's talents and one reason he is one of Canada's most prolific and published playwrights.
Director John Vreeke has developed a nicely paced play that never lags and seldom wanders off target. Set and lighting designer Daniel Conway has created a series of screens that allow an ethereal, dream-like quality to pervade the production. Rosemary Pardee's costumes are on the mark as the working class wear of the author's roots.
Bruce Holmes does an admiral job as the ever-aging Narrator. Starting out at ten he creates the chastised child, the disdainful teen and finally the young man on the outset of becoming "something." What he is becoming he is not sure, just that he is embarking on his life journey while his Mother's is nearing an end.
Catherine Flye as Nana is wonderful, witty and entrancing! While the Narrator is an important part of the play, it's Ms. Flye's character who charges the piece with her ongoing monologues and comedic tirades that reveal her insecurities and limitations as well as her fertile imagination and inner strength. While she is a wonderfully loving mother, she is also a human being with flaws and so we see a gossipy, insecure and at times exasperated parent confused by her son's predisposition for asking hard questions that never occurred to her. It's a wonderful three dimensional portrayal of at least one woman that you probably know. If you are looking to treat yourself, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again may be the production to take in and savor.
Memories of a Mother, Brought Fondly to Life
By Michael J. Toscano
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 17, 2005; Page VA06
Fans of actress Catherine Flye have just a few chances left to see her in "For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again," which Alexandria's MetroStage has produced primarily as a vehicle for her considerable talents. Almost a one-woman show, the play is a mix of character study and memoir, allowing Flye to demonstrate why she is an audience favorite.
"For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again" is a sentimental series of vignettes written by French Canadian playwright and novelist Michel Tremblay in memory of his mother, a warm and loving figure whom he credits with inspiring his artistic sensibilities even as she raised him with firm direction. He calls her Nana and lets us meet her through the memories of a loving son.
Bruce Holmes as the Narrator and Catherine Flye as Nana in "For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again," which is being produced by Alexandria's MetroStage. (By Christopher O. Banks)
As Tremblay portrays her, Nana is a compulsive storyteller who enlarges the most mundane events and observations into epic tales to make a drab, working-class life in early 1950s Canada bearable, thus passing on to her son the desire to write and create.
One of the pillars of modern theater is the pathology of mother-playwright relationships. The torment caused by mothers absent or overbearing, psychologically frail or abusive, has given writers some of their best material. Would we have the masterpieces of Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill without mothers who contributed to their sons' need to work out their problems on paper?
Well, there is none of that here. Tremblay has written a love letter to his mom, and Flye brings her warmly to life. In fact, the only other character in the play, the Narrator (played by Bruce Holmes), who resembles the playwright as a younger man, tells us in the opening moments that we are not going to experience theater; we are just going to meet an ordinary woman.
That promise is more or less kept, until the closing moments, when a high degree of theatricality is introduced in a sentimental finale that allows the son a chance to say an extended goodbye to his mother. But for most of the 90 minutes, the Narrator provides brief segues between Nana's stories, observations and the exhortations from a mother to the son she worries about, instilling in him a love for words and illusion and drama.
Flye weaves a strong spell. Directed by John Vreeke, she brings as much realism as is possible in what is essentially hagiography. She gives Nana some prickly moments, and one can frequently sense inner fire, tension and weariness beneath the placid exterior.
It is odd that Flye, a London-trained actor, plays the role of a French Canadian woman by speaking in an English accent. Odder still, it doesn't seem to matter, especially as Holmes speaks with Midwestern American tones as her son.
Just as her character inhabits the playwright's memory, Flye remains onstage throughout the play, even as the son/Narrator is briefly talking to the audience about her. Vreeke usually places her just a few feet away in those moments, and she silently observes from the shadows behind one of several screens on the mostly barren stage. Holmes usually stays put in the lone chair as his character reaches back into various stages of his childhood and coming of age to summon up her tales.
Perhaps that's how he thinks of her now -- gone, but always near. The writing of this play might have been a way for the playwright to keep his mother alive and to allow him the pleasure of her company again. But thanks to Flye's gifts for creating a natural, gritty presence onstage, it's a pleasure shared by those who see the play that resulted.
"For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again" continues through Nov. 27 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. Showtime is 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available athttp://www.boxofficetickets.comor by calling 800-494-8497. For more information, visithttp://www.metrostage.com.
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
by Michael Tremblay
Directed by John Vreeke
with Catherine Flye and Bruce M. Holmes
Set and Lighting Design: Daniel Conway
Costume Design: Rosemary Pardee
Sound Design: Veronica Lancaster
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission
MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria