Review: The School For Wives (Théâtre Français de Toronto)

By Sam Mooney

L’École des femmes

Last night I saw Molière’s The School for Wives (L’École des femmes) which is the final production in the Théâtre Français de Toronto’s 2010/2011 season. On the way to the theatre my friend Didier – do I need to say that he’s French? – explained that the play was in a classic form of French verse called Alexandrin which has 12 syllables per line and has a break after 6 syllables.  I was so impressed, I thought he was a Molière expert. He admitted that he had looked it up.  I was still impressed, it hadn’t occurred to me to look it up.

Last night’s show had English surtitles which I read fairly often although not as much in the second act as in the first act. Without the surtitles I would have certainly caught the drift of the play but I would have missed a lot. The text in the surtitles wasn’t a literal translation; it also rhymed so I didn’t lose the sense of the rhyming and rhythm of the play. I overheard a couple of French women at intermission saying that they were glad of the surtitles. The language of the play is old in the same sense that Shakespeare’s language is old.

I really appreciate surtitles, it means that I can go see French plays in French and still be able to follow the story.

Didier loved the language, said it was rich and wonderful.

The School for Wives is a farce built around one man’s fear of being cuckolded and the lengths he has gone to in order to prevent it.  He is, of course, thwarted at every turn and the play ends with one of those wild coincidences that tie everything up in a neat little bow.

I really enjoyed the play.  The acting was wonderful.  It’s the kind of play where it would be easy for the actors to over-orate – if that’s a word.  The acting needs to be big but not cross the line into caricature otherwise we have no sympathy for the characters.  all of the performers were perfect.

Théâtre Français has an interesting way of getting audience feedback.  As you leave the theatre someone hands you a star. There’s a box with labelled slots where you deposit the star.  I think there were four slots, I didn’t really stop to read them just put mine in the “I adored the play” slot.  It’s a good idea, a quick and easy way to gauge audience reaction.


– The School for Wives is playing at The Berkeley Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley St) until April 23
– Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Saturday at 3.30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm
– Ticket prices range from $25.00 to $48.00.  Check the website for PWYC performances and for performances with surtitles
-Tickets are available at the box office , by phone at 416-534-6604 or 1-800-819-4981 or online

Photo: Left to right : Alain Doom, Geneviève Dufour, Jean-Simon Traversy and France Gauthier. Photographer: Marc Lemyre