The bold tagline for U of T’s Centre for Drama Studies’ latest production, Albertine in Five Times reads, “Nobody wants to listen to a heartless bitch.” That being said, the audience at Saturday nights performance proved otherwise as they sat spellbound for the show’s 90-minute duration.
Written by Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay and directed by Briar Knowles and William Wong, Albertine in Five Times explores the story of one woman living in Montreal during five distinct stages in her life. Albertine becomes a widow after her husband dies as a soldier in the war, and struggles with the challenges that come with being a single mother to a promiscuous, troublesome daughter, and a mentally ill son. Albertine battles a number of inner demons, including addiction, paranoia, rage, and jealousy. The audience pieces together more information about Albertine’s past as the show continues, but more profoundly, they are able to witness her evolution on these deeply personal issues based on the dialogue between the five Albertines.
The performance’s staging is particularly striking in that the audience surrounds the stage on all four sides, allowing for the stage, cast, and audience members to create an intimate space for viewership. All five Albertines are introduced at the beginning of the play and occupy five separate spaces across the stage, ranging from a rocking chair to a restaurant’s kitchen countertop. Selected members of the audience are given an opportunity to mingle with Albertine in personal, unscripted conversation during the preshow, which contributes heavily to the intimacy of the performance.
Notable character performances include Kristy Benz (Albertine at 40), who highlights the stark duality of Albertine through both her aggressive bitterness and complete helplessness. Eilish Waller (Albertine at 30) also succeeds in creating a multi-dimensional character, as she portrays Albertine as a timid, nervous young woman, whose raging tantrums surface in bits and pieces throughout the performance.
Albertine in Five Times runs at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse from September 17 to September 19