REVIEW: Me Too, I Am Catherine Deneuve (Trap Door)

| October 17, 2010

 

Sultry Songs, Scene-chewing Fabulousness

 

 Catherine Deneuve - Trap Door Theatre - top logo

   
Trap Door Theatre presents
    
Me Too, I Am Catherine Deveuve
   
Written and Composed by Pierre Notte
Directed by
Valery Warnotte
Translated by
David Bradby
at
Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland (map)
through November 20  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

There’s no logic in Trap Door Theatre’s current production, unless it is the quixotic logic of the heart. In the throes of Me Too, I Am Catherine Deneuve, every character, except for the piano player (Gary Damico), gets to be a desperate diva or forlorn heroine. It’s a grand, overwrought premise that, in the hands of French playwright Pierre Notte, cunningly receives deconstruction, satire and adulation. Meanwhile, Belgian director Valery Warnotte maintains the family tension of this play, executing their enigmatic emotional arc in one cohesive, graceful sweep. It’s quite an achievement for director and cast to simply run on subtext alone. More than once I  went looking for the linchpins that hold this drama together. It’s the heart. More than most plays, no matter now melodramatic, Me Too, I Am Catherine Deneuve is about the absurd, relentless demands of the heart.

Catherine Deneuve - Trap Door Theatre 2Therefore, action is never far from a torch song. The incredibly poignant songs, also written by Notte, are what bring real emotional gravitas to the play. They prevent its self-conscious and over-the-top dialogue from degenerating into silliness. Genevieve (Holly Thomas), in rebellion against her overbearing Mother (Beata Pilch), takes on the identity of Catherine Deneuve. Assuming the identity of France’s most beautiful modern actress liberates Genevieve from all constraints—she can say what she thinks, do what she wants and upstage her diva of a Mother, which may be the real point.

The Mother, portrayed exuberantly by the juggernaut that is Beata Pilch, must deal with this latest development in family madness. Her other daughter, Marie (Sadie Rogers), engages in self-cutting and retreats to her room to sing, in gorgeous chanteuse style, all the songs her Mother used to sing before she married and ended her career. Her only other child, The Son (John Kahara), lives prodigally in Bordeaux—a fact uttered by the Mother as if it Bordeaux itself were the sixth ring of hell. Everyone in the family is mourning the absent Father. Although he never spoke and may be responsible for the death of the cat, all hope of love has gone wherever Daddy has gone.

Hidden in this play’s maze of humorous complaints against the lovelessness of life lie some of the deepest observations on the human hunger for love, recognition or empowerment. “You can’t prevent and you can’t help,” says the Mother, frustrated in her inability to bring her family back to some semblance of sanity or unity. “Why try to prove we exist when no one gives a damn?” says Genevieve to her sister, berating her for cutting herself. “I was lovely. I was meant to be loved,” says Marie at the end, anticipating her demise. Everywhere the search for love is the constant search for recognition that affirms one’s uniqueness, which affirms the necessity to go on living.

With extensive help from the French Consulate in Chicago, Trap Door Theatre has brought Pierre Notte’s contemporary avant-garde play to Chicago. Speaking engagements with the playwright and director on contemporary French drama have been scheduled throughout this weekend, some co-coordinated with the University of Chicago. We’re indebted to the French Consulate and Trap Door for introducing far-flung works like these to Chicago. Me Too, I Am Catherine Denueve is a fabulous, irreverent breath of fresh air.

   
   
Rating: ★★★½
   

 

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Monday, October 18th, 3:30pm:

Politics & Esthetics of French Theater

French Theater Week will culminate with a lively and informative round-table discussion with Gérald Garutti (ENSATT, Sciences Po), Pierre Notte (Théâtre du Rond-Point), Valéry Warnotte (L’Intervention), Beata Pilch (Trap Door Theatre) moderated by John Ireland (UIC). Wine and cheese reception to follow.

More info: http://fcc.uchicago.edu/ 

Other France Chicago Center events:

          
          

Production Personnel

Cast: John Kahara, Beata Pilch, Sadie Rogers, Holly Thomas

Creative/Technical Team:

Pianist: Gary Damico / Musical Director: Nicholas Tonozzi / Assistant Director: Robert Teetsov / Sound Designer: Sam Lewis / Lighting Designer: Richard Norwood / Set Designer: Ewelina Dobiesz / Stage Managers: Michael Garvey & Barry Branford / Costume Designer: Nevena Todorovic / Graphic Designer: Michal Janicki

 

Bios:

Director, Valery Warnotte is both an actor and director. Originally from Belgium, Warnotte lives in Paris and works in France, Belgium and the USA. He is a member of artist collective DEREZO in Brest. Directorial credits include: Sharing Midi by Paul Claudel, Elle by Jean Genet, On Purge Baby! By Georges Feydeau, Judas Pilateby Paul Claudel, Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry and Monelle after the work of Marcel Schwob. He works regularly with the author Olivier Coyette; most recently they collaborated at the 14th Street Playhouse in Atlanta, with Voir Un Ami Pleurer (To See a Friend Cry) Other recent works include Microfictions, by Regis Jauffret in collaboration with Charlie Windelschmidt at Théâtre du Rond Point in Paris (with subsequent performances throughout France, with over 250 actors); an adaptation of Valere Novarina’s text, The Sacrificing Actor in partnership with Emory University in Atlanta and Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Playwright Pierre Notte is also a director, journalist, novelist, poet and arts consultant. He was named secretary general of the Comédie-Française in 2006 and left the position in 2009 to devote himself to his artistic work. Plays include Et l’enfant sur le loup, Deux petites Dames Vers Le Nord, Les Couteaux Dans Le Dos, J’existe(Foutez-moi la aix), A Cabaret (Paris, Les Déchargeurs, 2006) and Bidules, trucs. Since August 2009 he has been the resident playwright at Les Déchargeurs. He is also an associate playwright and author at the Théâtre du Rond-Point. His play Moi Aussi, Je Suis Catherine Deneuve staged by Jean-Claude Cotillard, won the 2005 Theatre Prize from the Fondation Diane et Lucien Barrière, and the Molière award for Best Private Theatre Production in 2006; Notte was also nominated for Best Playwright. The play has been staged in Tokyo, Rome and Sofia. He was named the SACD Best New Theater Talent in 2006. Since 1998 he has been an arts consultant for the theater department at the Lycée Saint-Louis Saint-Clément in Viry-Châtillon. He is a Chevalier des Arts et des Letters.

Catherine Deneuve - Trap Door Theatre - top logo

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Category: 2010 Reviews, Paige Listerud, Trapdoor Theatre

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