01.31.2004 || 01:27

Past Perfect

So to-night we saw the English-language world premiere of Michel Tremblay's Past Perfect, which is a sort of prequel to his 1985 play Albertine in Five Times. At the centre of the play is a heartbreak that Albertine suffers. Albertine's already a bit of a drama queen, and it turns out that her beau left her (for her younger sister, no less) because she was (as he saw it) smothering him; because she was (as she saw it) too passionate. Albertine rails against the life that apparently throws her bad luck all the time, and the family that can't see things her way. And when her ex finally tells her the reasons he left her, she declares that she'll never cry again, not for anyone.

The thing about this play is that it's tragic on two levels: The first is that of the play as presented to an audience fresh from the frigid Montréal winter, sitting in the warmth of the theatre and being shown a play that is funny, but utterly tragic. Albertine is a fundamentally unhappy person. She struggles with life, fighting tooth and nail with it because she hates what she was born into: Montréal in the Depression; a father who's so lazy and drunk that he doesn't even show up once in the play; a mother who long ago lost her dreams and tries her hardest to keep her kids from the same fate. Albertine is hopeless because she pinned her hope on a man who didn't want the same lifelong embrace as she did, and who ran from her heat into the milder climate of her sister's love. And when he finally tells Albertine that he's marrying madeleine, it breaks her completely.

The second layer to this is clear to anyone who grew up Québécois and went through the school system here: She never gets over it. Tremblay wrote Past Perfect to explain why Albertine is such a monster in the earlier play, which follows Albertine from her mother's house (at age 30) to her arrival in an old folks home in 1982 at 70.

I guess that seeing to-night's play and already knowing her dismal future just made it seem that much more sad. Because a terrible life spend raging against the world is, at the end of it all, sad.

||Gods save the Queen,

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