Marie, a newcomer to the village, has epilepsy, which makes her different from everybody else. Village children do not understand her problem, so she is an object of ridicule and utmost disrespect. The only friend who accepts her and always stays by her side is Patsy. After a high school dance one night, Marie disappears. After 16 years, they reunite. On her way to Montreal, Marie, now a celebrity who goes under the name Francesca, stops at her friend’s home in the village of their childhood. Talking about those days, they take the audience to an extraordinarily painful journey involving life filled with sickness, poverty, rejection, abuse and rape.
The narrative develops at a perfectly natural pace, gradually adding dramatic elements and building the story about the people on stage and their imperfect world. Every new scene draws the audience deeper into a darkness of ignorance and cruelty that affect the lives of the protagonists. Told in a simple but powerful way, the story has an aura of truth and the power to get emotions boiling over injustices committed in the name of stupidity and prejudice. It knowingly rips apart sensitive issues and slowly analyzes them by adding a building block with each sentence. This beautiful story will not leave anybody indifferent. More likely, after seeing it, you will go to sleep thinking about it, wake up still angry and go through your day with heavy emotions.
With all these said, it is not hard to understand how difficult it must be for cast and creative team to recreate the atmosphere of such a drama on the stage. Fortunately, it proved not to be impossible in the case of Cart Before the Horse Theatre.
The tone of the play is set by a collective effort. Light, set and costume design play an equally important role as acting and the sound and make-up truly add to the drama. Most of all, I respect a “mighty whole” in theatre, and this performance is very close to it. Every element has its place and supports the story-line. Thanks to its creative team, some effects are haunting, particularly when young Marie comes back home in a ripped, stained dress after being raped during a seizure.
The narrative is set-up cleverly in the form of two parallel actions: one happening in the present moment (when Patsy and Francesca/Marie have the reunion) and another one representing their memories of their younger selves during their childhood.
Gabbie Lazarovitz is very much a self-confident, calm and collected Francesca, until the moment when memories of her fatal nigh of abuse overwhelm her. Here, Megan Carty in the role of young Marie gets her chance to shine fully. In the scene when she comes back raped and humiliated from what should have been a romantic date, she grabs the attention, and imprisons the audience by her powerful moment of pain and hopelessness.
A script like this has a huge potential, and presents equally a challenge and a reward for artists. It is already so big in its dark reality, that it does not leave any place for the slightest exaggeration. For the most part, actors succeeded in respecting that. Erica Anderson has some excellent moments, mostly as a teen-ager Patsy. Her very young (10 year old) Patsy is less successful however, because she tends to scream and jump in an unnatural manner. Children are very loud and energetic, but not to the point of hysteria.
On the other hand, Sheena Turcotte is mostly very convincing as a simple woman who lives a simple life on a farm. What she lacks is a dynamic with Francesca/Marie, which make her Patsy at some moments more flat than she should be.
Some director’s choices are excellent, including a captivating set-up, use of light, singing sequences and change of scenes. The only problem occurs when actors talk to the audience, almost in the form of a lecture, instead of communicating with each other on the stage. For example, Patsy often speaks to the audience, practically ignoring Francesca/Marie who stands next to her. This “story telling” style breaks the real connection with audience, emotional charge and the magic built through the life-like connection between characters in a play.
With a few imperfections, Perfect Pie is a true treat for those who seek serious, artistic and engaged theatre. Must see performance!
Produced by Car Before the Horse Theatre Company
Written by Judith Thompson
Megan Carty – Young Marie
Erica Anderson – Young Patsy
Sheena Turcotte – Patsy
Gabbie Lazarovitz Franceska/Marie
Directed Paul Griffin
Lighting Design Zahra Larche
Sound Design and Composition by Martin Dawagne
Costume and Make-up Design Erica Anderson
Set Design Paul Griffin
Perfect Pie plays in Arts Court Theatre until March 19, 2016