Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Le paradis à la fin de vos jours

Returning to Nana
by Élaine Charlebois

In Le paradis à la fin de vos jours, Rita Lafontaine plays Rhéauna ‘Nana’ Rathier, a character inspired by the mother of beloved Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay. In this piece, Nana finds herself in paradise where she must spend the rest of eternity surrounded by her deceased family members, namely her boisterous mother and critical mother-in-law. 

As Nana, Lafontaine gives us a heartwarming and simultaneously heartbreaking performance. Having been Tremblay’s muse since 1968 when she took on the role of Lise Paquette in the classic Les Belles-Soeurs, and having embodied Nana on stage more than 175 times in Encore une fois, si vous permettez, Lafontaine shows awesome confidence and control in her performance. Throughout her monologue, the actress so perfectly captures the essence and wit of French Canadian culture in Quebec. Banalities are described in hilarious detail, turning everyday occurrences into great stories to be told. 

Although there are many comedic instances in Le paradis à la fin de vos jours, there is an equal amount of dramatic substance. Nana expresses her disappointment that paradise is not at all the way it was described to her on earth. She has never met God in the years that she has been there and is seemingly nowhere near him. Through the persona of a housewife who had done her best to be a good Christian all the while struggling to sustain her family in the aftermath of World War II, Lafontaine successfully transmits the frustration and resistance that Quebecers felt toward the strict Catholic values that were heavily promoted by the clergy in the 1950s. 

Nana’s recounting of unfortunate memories, namely the death of her two older children when they were teenagers, as well as funny ones makes for a piece with profound depth. And through it all Lafontaine commands the stage. 

A must see!

Runs to November 9

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