Review: Albertine in Five Times (Alumnae Theatre)

Anne Shepherd sitting in chair. Versions of herself at earlier ages are projected behind her

Deciding to produce Michel Tremblay’s play Albertine in Five Times is fairly straightforward. Deciding how to stage it isn’t. Alumnae Theatre has made a bold choice for its current production.

Director Cassidy Sadler presents Albertine in Five Times as an integrated virtual/live production. Two actors are live on stage, four are performing from home and are projected into the theatre. It’s presented digitally. The audience watches from home – or wherever they want.

This is a production for our times. Some of us can be together while some of us can’t. Some of us still aren’t comfortable gathering in a small space. It would be even better to see it combined with an option of a live audience (distanced, masked and vaxxed, of course). The energy of an audience translates to actors on stage and each other. I imagine it would transfer to the broadcast too.

A digital option opens up access to theatre for so many reasons. Barriers to physical theatre go beyond COVID, and digital options can help when access to things like childcare, transportation, physically accessible spaces and so on are limited.

In this case, it’s an ideal way to deal with the question of what to do with four or five characters who don’t have anything to do while one or two are speaking. There are no distractions. My focus was completely on the speaking characters.

Sadler’s direction is fantastic. There’s the technology to figure out as well as having your performers in five separate locations and trusting that everything syncs when they interact with each other. That’s aside from any artistic considerations.

I love the way the characters talk to Albertine at 70 and each other. I especially love that the two ‘live on stage’ characters act with the projected characters and that the projected characters act with each other. It’s so well done. I can’t imagine seeing the play with six live actors on stage.

If I have a quibble, it’s that at times it’s hard to see the two characters projected at the rear. It’s as if there isn’t enough contrast.

We see Albertine at 70 on her first night in a retirement home. She tells us she has died once already and was resuscitated. Not that it was her choice. She spends the night in conversation with herself at different stages of her life – at 30, 40, 50, and 60, and with her sister Madeleine, her only confidante.

Anne Shepherd is excellent at portraying the contradictions in Albertine at 70’s character. When we first see her, she seems like a slightly crabby old woman who has accepted her fate stoically. As the play progresses, we start seeing some of the bitterness and rage that drove her when she was younger. We also see glimpses of regret and a yearning for love.

The rage is strongest in Albertine at 30 – Paige Madsen – and Albertine at 40 – Elizabeth Friesen.

Albertine at 30 is in the country recuperating. She talks about the beauty of the sunset and about how she loves the country and feels at peace. As she continues, we find out why she’s in the country. She starts talking about the rage that’s inside her, that’s always been inside. Madsen captures that initial joy perfectly and makes the transition to Albertine’s description of rage seamlessly.

Friesen portrays rage remarkably as Albertine at 40. She’s fed up with her life and with her children. She’s alienated her family with her rage and bitterness. She doesn’t hear that her sister Madeleine is trying to reach out to her. She responds with rage.

Sandy Ramdin, as Albertine at 50, shines with the feeling of self-worth she’s found in her first job. There’s a little bit of smugness as she tells her other selves that she decided to make her own decisions for the first time in her life.

Albertine at 60 is addicted to sedatives and almost in a stupor. She manages to add a few comments, mostly nasty and bitter, to the conversation. Leslie Rennie plays her perfectly, slightly slack-jawed, looking addled but more alert than she seems.

Madeleine is happy in all the ways that the Albertines aren’t. Happy in her marriage, with her children, with her life. Valerie Carrier infuses the role with joy. Nothing the Albertines say can change her attitude.

I liked Albertine in Five Parts. I liked the way that Albertine’s story came together slowly. I loved the staging. The direction and acting were terrific. I definitely recommend it.

Details:

  • Albertine in Five Times is playing virtually at the Alumnae Theatre Company until November 20, 2021
  • Tickets are $15 each or $25 for a group of three or more
  • On-demand digital presentation begins at 7:00pm on November 11-13, and 18-20 and is available until 4:00 the following day
  • Talk-backs 2pm Sat Nov 13 & Sun Nov 21
  • Tickets are available online.

Photo of Anne Shepherd in foreground with (from left) Leslie Rennie, Paige Madsen, Elizabeth Friesen, and Sandy Ramdin projected behind by
Jeff Young

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