And Slowly Beauty...
Theatre inspires life in Michel Nadeau's revitalizing drama
Written by Michel Nadeau
Translated by Maureen Labonte
Directed by Michael Shamata
A man gets ready for work, buttoning his dress shirt and tying his tie. Commuters walk quickly through the subway, heading in different directions, and gossip about the latest drama on their favourite soap opera around the water cooler once at the office. A corporate meeting, led by Mr. Mann (played by Dennis Fitzgerald), is the ultimate illustration of monotony, eliciting giggles from an audience who likely left a similar environment just hours before. These are the opening, relatable moments in Michel Nadeau's And Slowly Beauty..., now playing at the Tarragon Theatre.
Dressed in a three-piece gray suit, Mr. Mann is a middle-aged, middle class family man with a job in the city. After a day at work, he returns to his middle class home, albeit an empty one, greeted by a series of Post-It notes rather than a family. His wife, Claudette (Caroline Gillis) has put leftover chicken in the fridge for him, which his son, Quentin (Shawn Ahmed) has eaten (and has apologized for, via Post-It). Mr. Mann has won two tickets, in an office draw, to a modern version of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters, which he decides to see alone after stopping by his empty home and finding no companion for the evening. He has no idea, upon entering the theatre, how the production will affect him, or how it will lead him to re-examine his life.
Once the applause has faded, Mr. Mann faces another regular work day, but the three sisters of Chekhov's play, as well as various other characters, appear to follow him, showing up at the coffee shop he frequents as well as in his office. The effect that the play has had on Mr. Mann leads him to purchase a copy of The Three Sisters and he finds himself engrossed in it while the world goes about their lives around him. He is compelled to see the play a second time, and although he invites his wife to go with him, she declines, as she is absorbed in her own life as a real estate agent. His second viewing affects him even more than the first, and he finds himself questioning his life a great deal based on the play's themes and message, asking himself the same question: If he could go back and start his life over, would he do it all differently?
And Slowly Beauty... is a testament to the power of theatre to transform lives and change perspectives. Mr. Mann's relationships with his co-workers, family, and even a woman who serves him coffee are all improved after he re-evaluates his life. He shares some tender moments with his daughter Nadine (Celine Stubel) and son Quentin toward the end of the production, however the character of Mr. Mann is not one to whom the audience always feels sympathetic. His yearning for happiness, and his search for meaning in his life, however, is a universal feeling which makes this production highly enjoyable and uplifting.
And Slowly Beauty... runs until March 31 at the Tarragon Theatre. Visit tarragontheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.