January 13, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 56  

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Strawberries in January a great way to shake off winter blues

Strawberries in January
Starring: Deborah Hay, Jonathan Goad, Peter Krantz
Written by: Evelyne de la Cheneliére
Directed by: Susan Ferley

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
HOW’S THAT FOR DRAMATIC FLAIR? Jonathan Goad (Francois) and Deborah Hay (Sophie) star in Strawberries in January.

Strawberries in January? What a novel idea! That’s the type of fresh thinking The Grand Theatre has in store for theatre goers this month with the unveiling of their new production Strawberries in January. It’s a quaint, adorable, romantic comedy that will thaw the hearts of even the most frigid audience.

Translated from the original French play by Evelyne de la Cheneliére, Strawberries follows the pursuits of four terminal singles as they stumble through chance meetings and poetic encounters in the hopes of one day finding love.

Whereas the depth of many romantic leads tends to be paper thin, the four principle characters in Strawberries are well-rounded and surprisingly real in the complexity of their simple lives. They are everyone, and yet no one, as if inspired rather then manifested. You are left with the sense these are people you might know, or even that you might be one of them.

The actors are able to convince the audience that not every prince needs to be charming — that even dull, normal people can be swept off their feet.

Of note is Hay as Sophie, the eccentric, stumbling socialite who seems convinced she is somehow destined to find a mate who is the embodiment of the quintessential Hollywood leading man.

Sophie is gifted with many of the play’s most memorable punchlines. During one scene at a dinner party hosted by Francois (Goad), having felt cornered and awkward, Sophie accidentally blurts out that she finds Robert (Krantz) “annoying.” The line is delivered with perfect comic pitch.

Meanwhile, as the drama between the three principal characters unfolds, a second storyline starring Lea (Diana Donnelly) follows suit, until it too falls into place during the play’s touching finale. The audience is delivered a complete package, one that does not tire or strain their attention spans.

Although stiff in appearance, the set design surprisingly bends and folds to the whims of the actors. It pays homage to early art deco design, and uses only a few flies and a flood of multi-toned light to instantly transform into a variety of different settings. During one scene, it is a quaint coffee shop nestled within the chaos and noise of Montréal, and the next, a quiet secluded country inn.

Strawberries is the type of feel-good play that succeeds where many of Hollywood’s feel-good movies fail. It does not merely play out as a formulated scenario — boy meets girl, boy wants girl, boy gets girl. Far from it. The production is a well-orchestrated piece, equally divided amongst four participants who, although flawed, never stoop to a level that is below the audience’s intelligence. They may be lovesick, but they’re not fools.

During a month when television and movies are serving up stale leftovers, Strawberries is the ideal way to combat a bad case of the January blahs.

Strawberries in January will be playing at The Grand Theatre from Jan. 6 to 24. Call 672-8800 for tickets and information.



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