Culture & Conversation

Reflecting on us While Thinking of YU

In 1921, Luigi Pirandello electrified the theatrical world with Six Characters in Search of an Author. In 1989, three real young Chinese protesters (two named Yu) were tortured and jailed for throwing red paint at an image of Mao in Tiananmen Square. In 2012, three fictional characters in Canada, reflecting on these events, found their author in Montreal playwright Carole Frechette.

All six of these characters have been brought to life in French by her and translated into English by John Murrell. The result, Thinking of Yu now has its Quebec English premiere by Imago Theatre.

The three personages — Maggie, a writer at loose ends, Lin, an earnest young Chinese exchange student and Jerry, a seemingly easy going handyman — are embodied by the admirable acting chops of, respectively, Danielle Desormeaux, Shiong-En Chan and Kwasi Songui.

I have been a long time admirer of Ms Desormeaux since her regular appearances at the late lamented Kiss My Cabaret. Extremely versatile, her diction is always clear and precise without being laboured. She is perfect as the procrastinating writer who becomes obsessed with the motivations of  journalist Yu Dongyue, who became mentally disabled as a result of his punishment.

This leads to a cultural clash with Lin whose visceral reaction is to not challenge authority. Gerry’s placid exterior conceals an inner rage as he deals with a deserting wife and a disabled child.

When do you choose to protest against impossible odds? Do you quietly acquiesce? Do you sacrifice yourself and your family? Director Micheline Chevrier ably packages these perennial questions for you as she assumes the helm at Imago.

Thinking of Yu continues at the Centaur until May 5.


IMAGE:  From left: Danielle Desormeaux, Shiong-En Chan, Kwasi Songui. The photographer is Ricardo Cellere.

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