Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
Solemn Mass for A Full Moon in Summer
By Lizzie Loveridge
The space at The Pit has been filled with blue painted railings, like fire escape balconies for this strange piece by the French Canadian, Michel Tremblay. To the rear is a overly large moon blushed red. The play's form is based on the mass, with the scenes are played out between the people who live in one block, separated by the chants of set prayer which at times breaks into a cacophony, as everyone talks at once. It is rather like a spoken round song.
The couples seem to have caught the mood of today's dysfunctional society. There is a male gay couple, one has AIDS as the result of cheating on his partner, the other is tied into caring for him. Two middle aged women, lesbians, live together. Their love is dying and turning on one side, into contempt and on the other, dread of an ending. A daughter cares for her father, who is helpless after his arms were amputated in a car accident when he was driving drunk. A mother is trying to understand her son who has been left in despair by his male lover (the son having left his wife and child for that lover). A widow is getting acquainted with loneliness. The only joyous couple are a sprightly young pair, Isabelle and Yannick who are discovering each other sexually, with wild abandon.
The poem is more like a tone poem than a drama as the characters are mostly confined in movement to a four feet by two feet balcony. The introduction is interesting as we are given a small sentence from each, like a snapshot of their life. Much of the dialogue is in colloquial Scots dialect using words relatively unknown outside Scotland, words like "greeting" for crying tears. However good as the performances are, the play lacks dramatic passion and verve.
The male couple's dilemma was moving but there is too little time devoted to setting up the characterisation and too much devoted to establishing the form for most of the characters to arouse sympathy. Lines are repeated, often as background "music" -- for instance, as the mother tries to come to terms with her son's homosexuality, he chants repeatedly during her monologue, "Leave it be . . .There's nothin to be done . . .Nothin to say . . There's no point . . .Leave it be, Mum." The widow throbs "No ….no … no… no …" like a drum beat.
Maybe Michel Tremblay's play sounded more lyrical in French, a more hypnotic language than lowland Scots. While Solemn Mass for a Full Moon in Summer seemed interesting in summary, it played drawn out and lacking in action and explanation. It does, however, end strongly with the actors, couple by couple, breaking into the tango. Gérard and Yvon who dance expertly are in the lead. The widow dances with the railings, her imaginary partner is her husband whom she remembers.