Monday, April 23, 2012

The Real World of Michel Trembley and the delights of the House of Elliot

I saw THE REAL WORLD in preview at the Tarragon Theatre Sunday night. Twenty-five years after its premiere in English, Michel Tremblay's play remains a powerful and deeply affecting exploration of the intersections between life and art and an excruciating window into the life of his family.

When you turn your life into art can you ever be fair to the people you are writing about?  Who decides what was real, and who is telling the truth about events long past?  Whose memory do you trust: your own, or the memories of the people you loved ,or despised?  Can we ever let go of the residual pain of childhood abuse or neglect?  How do you write silence? What does silence allow:  good and bad, in life and in art?

As is often the case with Tremblay, the play is also an excoriating exploration of straight white male privilege, the abuses that so frequently attend it, and the affect of those abuses, physical, sexual, and emotional on the lives of the people who are dependent on those men. Few have ever better depicted domestic hell than Tremblay. I walked out of that theatre last night shaking with rage, remembering men I grew up it who were that dad.

I've always felt Tremblay and Tennessee Williams wrote most realistically and truthfully about the lives of women. The young friend I was with said; "He's a feminist writer."  Hell, yeah!

Tremblay asks tough questions and offers no easy answers.

As the show is in previews, I'm not going to review the mostly fine cast here.  I can say I really enjoyed last night's preview and I will tell you that if you decide to go, you are in for a fine, if challenging night at the theatre.

For the rest of the week, I've been ensconced at home, enjoying the adventures of the Elliot sisters as they struggle to become self-sufficient proprietors of a fashion house in London between the wars. THE HOUSE OF ELLIOT is a 12- part mini-series from the BBC from a few years back.  It has all the usual features of the BBC's best work: characters that hook you in, a fine cast, good writing, directing that doesn't get in the way and fabulous art direction.  Deco design, blue-stockings, a good history lesson about life in London during that period, and a coterie of love interests of the chiseled jaw, dark haired, blue-eyed, worldly, witty, devil-may-care romantic type I have always found tough to resist have made me look forward to coming home from work this week. If you love this sort of thing as much as I do, put on your silk dressing gown, make yourself a cocktail, and settle in for a trip back to the Jazz Age. As guilty pleasures go, this is pure, harmless fun. That good video store near you will certainly be able to get it for you.

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