Secrets are revealed when a couple discovers a body in Une Vie Pour Deux on stage at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre
Every so often a production takes a difficult discussion and uses it to reveal the flaws in our way of thinking. Une Vie Pour Deux (Love and Other Fragments) is a joint project by Espace GO and Theatre Francais de Toronto at the Berkeley Street Theatre is a work that dives into its subject and delivers a solid night of theatre.
A couple, Jean (Jean-Francois Casabonne) and Simone (Violette Chauveau) are vacationing in Ireland when they discover a dead body, later revealed as Mary (Rachel Graton). Fascinated with the endless possibilities of what happened to her, Simone becomes obsessed with telling Mary’s story much to Jean’s consternation. As Mary takes on an invented life, it is Simone and Jean who are exposed.
Based on the novel of the same name by Marie Cardinal, Une Vie Pour Deux is a timely examination of death and our relationship to a natural state that simultaneously empowers humanity and leaves it helpless.
I can’t give too much away without spoiling the heart of the play but the unraveling narrative becomes an important cry for help. Thematically, director Alice Ronfard, actor Chauveau, and adapter Evelyne de la Cheneliere have created a nuanced work that asks difficult questions about life, love and death without trying to answer them.
Between the simple direction and the clever use of set — a beach-like table with a body’s imprint — Ronford focused the story on its most important part, the characters. Sometimes interacting, sometimes breaking the fourth wall, these characters become familiar and relatable, making the eventual twist tragic.
Both my guest and I agreed that it is rare to get such a perfect cast with such fantastic chemistry. Chauveau and Casabonne flitted through their personal frustrations so quickly that as part of the audience, you had to just let got and follow along. Casabonne’s exasperation was tempered with gentleness. Chauveau was intelligent and smart but secretly terrified.
Meanwhile Graton had intense physical work as a body that doubled as a doll and a statue. Her movement and quiet, clear speech was eerie to watch, especially as pretenses fell away. Set against Chauveau’s and Casabonne’s energy, Graton’s deliberateness was stark in contrast, giving her a sense of other-worldliness.
My biggest complaint is that Une Vie Pour Deux went from tightly written to drawn out at the very end. While a small hiccup in an otherwise excellent production, I felt it removed some of the emotional impact. Instead of ending strong, it became repetitive; dragging out a moment that was more powerful in its silence.
This complaint does not diminish the show at all. If you are worried about the French, there are subtitles although certain sections fly by very fast. While I could see the subject matter being controversial to some, I firmly believe this is a must-see. Une Vie Pour Deux delivers a strong cast, strong direction, and, most importantly, a strong story.
- Une Vie Pour Deux runs until January 25 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
- Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm with a matinee at 3:30pm on Saturday and at 2:30pm on Sunday
- Ticket prices vary, see website for details
- Tickets can be purchased at the box office prior to show, online, or by phone at 416-534-6604
- Please note that on January 22 the performance does not have English subtitles
Picture of Evelyne de la Cheneliere (replaced in this production by Rachel Graton), Jean-Francois Casabonne, and Violette Chauveau by Caroline Laberge