ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Strawberries in January a great way to shake off winter
Strawberries in January
Starring: Deborah Hay, Jonathan Goad, Peter Krantz
Written by: Evelyne de la Cheneliére
Directed by: Susan Ferley
By Christopher Hodge
Gazette file photo
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
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
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.