Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve
Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

By:  Pierre Notte

Translated by:  David Bradby

Directed by:  Valery Warnotte

At Trap Door Theatre

Entertaining Performances Make Up for Confusing Narrative.

I applaud Trap Door Theatre for continuing to bring obscure works from all around the globe to Chicago.  Their most recent effort comes from French playwright Pierre Notte with director Valery Warnotte visiting from France as well.  Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve is billed as a family drama that “invites the audience to explore, alongside the characters, the potent relationship between self-definition and self-determination.”  This goal is never fully realized because while the performances are entertaining and the cabaret style music creates wonderful atmosphere, the lack of arc within the story and emotional content make it difficult to relate.  You may find yourself trying to decipher what exactly is happening throughout the evening, but this rather confusing journey comes with some memorably amusing moments.  You may never look at a fridge the same way again.

Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

Before the show opens Genevieve (Holly Thomas) seated at the table reading while her sister Marie (Sadie Rogers) assists the audience at the bar and their Mother (Beata Pilch) cleans the space.  A Pianist (Gary Damico) also adds music to the background while The Son (John Kahara) plays around.  I always like when a show starts the second you walk into the space because it immediately sets the atmosphere.  As the play opens we find The Mother is domineering over Genevieve, her youngest, who rebels against her mother’s wishes and believes she is Catherine Deneuve (because she can do whatever she wants).  Marie believes herself to be a singer, but has never had an audience and perpetually cuts herself for attention.  The Mother always seems to be cooking or baking something, but can never please her children, a fact she relates directly to the audience.  While The Son, mostly vacant until the end, comes home and remains mostly mute.  He is often compared to his father because of his silence and his obsession with a revolver.  These are the ingredients to the evening, but just like The Mother’s Baking, not everything comes together into a cohesive whole.

Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

The performances of the entire ensemble are continually captivating.  Sadie Rogers steals the show with her vocal performances and vacant stares, beautifully personifying someone who seems to have given up on life but has so much to live for.  Beata Pilch commands the stage with her fierce eyes and physical presence.  Holly Thomas is a delight to watch as she immerses herself in the world of Catherine Deneuve.  You can tell she has not lost her mind, but find the only way to become the person she wants to be is to become someone else.  Even John Kahara’s brief role as The Son is well-rounded, with his handful of lines often stealing the later scenes.  What all of the characters have in common is that they are not happy with who they are so they yearn to be, and in some cases actually become, someone completely different.  This is the common link that drives the evening forward rather than the narrative, and without these wonderful performances this evening could have been exceedingly dull.

Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve

The direction of Valery Warnotte takes to heart the theme of identity in staging and design.  When Marie is the singer, she takes over a completely different space laden with a staircase, a mirror encircled in lights, and a scrim.  In many ways the play feels like a movie due to the subtitles written in French when English is sung and vice versa.  It’s a playful touch to the environment.  Set designer Ewelina Dobiesz has brilliantly created another character, the fridge.  It serves as the container for all of the props, even those non-food related.  It allows for some wonderfully humorous moments and made me excited for the next time the fridge was going to be used.  I also want to mention Music Director Nicholas Tonozzi, because the songs were so beautifully done.

Although I did not fully understand the piece, I found myself entertained for most of the evening.  The songs were beautifully sung, particularly the ones by Sadie Rogers, and pieces of dialogue and offbeat quirks kept me engaged.  This is definitely not a show for those that crave a clear cut narrative, but rather one for those who prefer poetic dialogue and moody atmosphere.  This was not an easy piece to pull off so I give extra credit to the folks at Trap Door for doing such a wonderful job with it.

Recommended

Jake Lindquist

Date of Review:  10/15/2010

For full show information, check out the Me Too, I am Catherine Deneuve page at TheatreInChicago.

At Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622. Tickets $20 (Two for one Thursdays).  Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 PM, special performance Sunday Oct. 17th at 3:00 PM.  For tickets call 773-384-0494 or visit www.trapdoortheatre.com.  Running time is approx. 90 min with no intermission.  Through Nov. 20, 2010.