I was recently in Montreal for ATHE’s 2015 conference and also part of the pre conference led by Heather Helinsky. We were asked to each read a play by a Canadian author, and comment on it in pitch form, paying special attention to the theme of the conference, “I remember.” This is the perfect play for this theme, for playwright Larry Tremblay has created a one person monologue that is all about remembering, or mis-remembering more like it.
Tremblay’s narrator is Gaston Talbot, an older man looking back on his memories of childhood in Chicoutimi, which he compares to an ugly American city defined by water. He reminisces, all the while discussing himself and his myriad “problems,” but, most interestingly, we discover soon therein that Talbot is a liar, someone untrustworthy, someone who presents the truth not as it was, but maybe as he wants it to be (and sometimes, even as he would never want it to be).
The audience stays interested because of a dramatic hook–something violent has occurred, and though we don’t know what, we do know that it’s something life changing, something disruptive, something’s that indeed changed Talbot’s life. On his journey to tell the story, he loses his train of thought (or does he?) and falls into digressions about his childhood, his life, and especially a very surreal dream in which he plays both his mother and himself.
Tremblay plays with us as Talbot tells his story, frustrating us at his inability to hold to his tale, but enchants us with very Lynchian takes on his dream life, also violent. Along the way, we learn much about Canada, small town life, Talbot’s psyche, and the rationale behind lying. Also, because the character dreams in English, and the play was written in English, we remain intrigued by his use of language.
I’m not a fan of one-person plays with intense secrets, but this one works. It makes us laugh, wonder, and question–and it examines a memory disassociated, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes mistakenly. Finally, it reminds me a bit of “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” in its insistence of the modern sensibility (as prevalent then as it is now)