Review by Barb Popel
60 minutes | Comedy | PG
I’ve loved the other Dario Fo plays I’ve seen in England and in Ottawa, and wished that his works were performed here more often. Theatre Sasa has answered my wish.
The play is about a couple in an open marriage – a marriage in which either partner is free to have one or more other sexual partners. The husband has instigated this “modern” relationship; the wife is reluctantly going along with him, alternating between suicidal despair and the urge to get revenge on her cheating spouse. This is a story about how open relationships aren’t easy, and in the opinion of the playwright, don’t really work. As the wife, Antonia, says at one point, “if it’s open on both sides, there are terrible drafts.”
The backstory behind the play, according to the director Jodi Sprung-Boyd, is that Dario Fo wrote it as an apology to his wife for his adulterous ways. His wife, Franca Rame, announced on public TV that she was going to divorce Fo (how’s that for airing your dirty linen in pubic?). Fo attempted reconciliation by offering her this play, in which the husband comes across as a selfish manipulative cad. But Fo never intended it to be performed. Rame shared it with some friends, and the next thing they knew, it was being performed in Sweden. Then Rame performed it in Italy. (Talk about public revenge!)
There’s a British translation, but Sprung-Boyd and Madeleine Boyes-Manseau recently decided to translated it into English themselves. Well done! They’ve updated it with local contemporary references, including hilarious allusions to federal cutbacks in the civil service, the Language Police, the Montreal student demonstrations, and mega-gas pipeline projects.
Boyes-Manseau does a fine job as Antonia. She’s ably matched by Sean Sonier who plays the philandering husband. They both handle the crackling dialogue and some very physical acting with aplomb. I really felt the actors were enjoying themselves; the audience certainly were! There’s even some charming pre-show banter with the audience and their technician. And as the handbill says, “The Open Couple is rated PG13 because sometimes Antonia loses her temper and says rude things.” Indeed she does.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t praise the production values. (Yes! A Fringe play with production values!) The set is really elegant…it honestly looks like an upscale Italian living room. Lighting and, to a lesser extent, music are used to great effect. Even the costumes are just right, in that sophisticated Italian couture manner. That is, until Antonia gets into her slutty Jersey girl outfit – the one she wears to attract other men.
So here’s what I propose: Let’s all encourage local theatre companies to put on more Dario Fo plays by attending this delightful gem.
The Open Couple by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, translated by Madeleine Boyes-Manseau and Jodi Sprung-Boyd, is playing at BYOV E – Studio 311 (3rd floor of 135 Seraphin-Marion) on Thursday June 14 at 11:00 pm; Friday June 15 at 6:00 pm; Saturday June 16 at 8:00 pm; Sunday June 17 at 11:00 pm; Tuesday June 19 at 8:00 pm; Wednesday June 20 at 11:00 pm; Thursday June 21 at 6:00 pm; Friday June 22 at 8:00 pm: Saturday June 23 at 11:00 pm; Sunday June 24 at 6:00 pm.