For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at The Williamstown Theatre Festival
August 15, 2002 performance reviewed by Pat Nichols
A huge brick wall looms over the opening of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at The Williamstown Theatre Festival Mini Festival. Written by Canadian Playwright Michel Tremblay as a tribute to his mother who defined his eventual journey as a playwright, the play describes the effect of a loving mother on her son’s future.
Olympia Dukakis as Nana, whose hyperbole during conversations with her son ranges from almost true to over the top fabrication, marked his progression into adulthood. The play follows the two from the time he is ten until he is 20. At first he sits in his chair with his feet tucked up under him, a child caught in a transgression. As a thirteen year old he half lays in the chair, as a twenty year old he begins in earnest to separate from her but she is never far away.
A simple woman raising her family, cooking big Saturday night dinners for relatives who don’t appreciate them and catering to her husband’s needs, she represents a universality of women, who acted and thought behind the scenes.
The first scene centers on a policeman coming into her home and her immediate reaction to his presence is that it is an indication that someone died. She imagines the corpse, covered so she only sees one hand. She wonders how she can identify who it is.
Over the top, she describes her emotions, leaving her washing to speak with the officer and finding out her ten year old threw a piece of ice under a the wheel of a car. “Everyone was doing it,” only sends her on another verbal crusade.
Years later, the two discuss books and why she likes them and the son finds inconsistencies and flaws. Mothers know everything she claims in her own defense of her love of certain books. Dukakis does an awesome job of recreating Tremblay’s mother. She is on stage almost every minute voicing her take on family, on life, and what she believes in, with humor and determination.
Marco Barricelli grows in the role from the boyish ten year old to the 20 year old assimilating what his mother has reiterated over and over in their conversations. Nana admits she grows melodramatic but can’t help the irresistible flow of words that stream out of her mouth and consciousness.
As she grows ill near the end, she wonders how plays happen, where they come from, unaware she has created the nexus of a play by simply living her life. Nana wonders about an actress she admires but questions ‘does that actress imagine her audience out there watching her? Do they have an interest in that person—Nana? Do we exist for them? What is their connection? What is real?
She laments her son isn’t settled yet and blames herself. ”I let you dream too much, let you read books.” He counters “Everything I have I got from you, it is a strength.” Tremblay wanted to recreate his mother’s life, wanted a second chance to be with her again. The play enables the rest of us to share his good fortune in a warm and humorous way.
More info: 2013 Williamstown Theatre Festival schedule.