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{"I feel pretty..."} Les Belles-soeurs
By Michel Tremblay
translated by John Van Burek and Bill Glassco
Directed by Denise Filiatrault
Starring Donna Goodhand, Tara Samuel, Ellen-Ray Hennessy among others
Played at Bluma Appel Theatre, March 29-May 1, 1999
Review by Michael Cottrell


"I am going to buy everything in the book, everything" --Germaine Lauzon

{Powdering herself} Standing around at the bar with my date at the Canadian Stage Company, (hey if you want to impress a guy take him to good theatre) the lobby music caught my ear. I commented that how apropos it was that they had French music playing before Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-soeurs.

Trying to appear very chic and cultural I then said, "gee with all good Quebec artist this is all the music they could come up with, I feel like I am in the 60's"

The curtain opens, oh my god I am in the sixties! East End Montreal, circa late sixties. Suddenly time and space are transported back into time. I am there with Les Belles-soeurs.

Germaine Lauzon steps through the doorway (oh my god it is my mother reincarnated) Mme. Lauzon has one a million Gold Star stamps in a lottery and she feels like she is the luckiest richest woman in the world. One hitch to the win is that stamps have to be licked and stuck into the Gold Star stamp books. One million stamps have to be licked and stuck. Germaine has prepared a stamp licking party of sort with her female friends. It is then that the story begins to unfold.

Winning a million trading stamps is a great fortune, but not for all. The neighbours arrive and one after another through talking as neighbours talk share their life stories. In the laughter and the great humour they speak also of the oppression of being women, being poor, being wives being mothers and simply being Québécois (remember they were playing the 60's music because this is the 60's just before the quiet revolution)

Everyone is licking and stamping, talking and stamping, complaining and stealing the stamps! Not one pe rson starts dipping into Mm. Lauzon fortune, they all do. The more they talk the more they steal.

At intermission I said I felt like I was in the Laurentians on New Years eve. Everyone talking and sharing stories, arguing and smoking, but I don't remember and stamps being stuck or stolen.

Les Belles-soeurs first opened at Montreal's Theatre du Rideau Vert, August 28, 1968. The Montreal theatre culture was limited by European classics. Tremblay's play was about to shock and revolutionize Quebec Theatre. It took the star power of the known popular actress Denise Filiatrault to bring the play to a success, scandalous but a success.

The audience is still being ruffled. The ladies with their winter tans sharing stories of Miami were gasping like they had never heard "fuck" or "god damn" in one sentence before. Their husbands or maybe they were dates too seemed to keep saying over and over again, "this is a woman's play." One man leaned over and explained to another man, "there are no men in this play".

Les Belles-soeurs, is indeed a raucous funny, pensive enlightening play about women. 15 working class women. The 1999 version staged at the Bluma Appel Theatre has captured it all under the direction of one of the original stars Denise Filiatrault.

{Bickering over trading stamps}Filiatrault says that she loves her characters in that they are her people, her mother, her neighbours and her aunts. This is her culture and with the strong cast of Janet Wright (Germaine Lauzon), Nicola Cavendish (Rose Ouimet) ,Donna Goodhand (Gabrielle Jodoin), Allegra Fulton (Pierrette Guérin), Ellen-Ray Hennessy (Olivine Dubuc), Janet Amos (Thérèse Dubuc), Jacqueline Blais (Rhéauna Bibeau), Danièle Lorain (Lisette de Curval), Deborah Grover (Des-Neiges Verdette), Jill Dyck (Angéline Sauvé), Cara Pifko (Lise Paguette), Aviva Armour-Ostroff (Ginette Ménard), and Tara Samuel (Linda Lauzon), they become our women, and for a moment in time, our culture.

Tremblay's Les Belles-soeurs is a classic!




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