In the modern age aristocracy of corporate power Théâtre français de Toronto (TFT) offers up a fresh retelling of Moliere’s bourgeois cabaret, Les Précieuses ridicules (Precious Young Ladies), adapted and directed by Artistic Director, Guy Mignault. In creating a unique adaptation for a modern audience, Mignault delights us with the ever present ignorance of the modern day aristocrat, while still keeping true to the core political statement of Moliere’s political satire.
The show revolves around two young girls (Chanda Legroulx and Andréane Bouladier), whose ignorance drives them to fall in love with two “poets” (Sébastian Bertrand and Alexandre Côté), but not before rejecting two suitors (Nico Racicot and Christopher Webb), found by their guardian (Robert Godin).
Precious Young Ladies offers an interesting experience for both the French speaking and English speaking alike, providing the audience with a projection of English subtitles above the glorified arch of the ever-so-present family portraits. Set and props designer, Glen Charles Landry, expresses a lavish, yet simple set design using colours that do not illuminate the sets, but are able to maintain their visual eccentricity through patterns and furs, along with a sense of excess. In conjunction with the set design, the projection of an urban city landscape is provided stage right, displayed as a window, and shot from above in order to maintain a sense of power over the city.
Behind the portraits we are presented with a wall, which at first glance does not seem to attract much attention, but steals our senses once its transparency is revealed. Simon Rossiter, lighting designer, shows us what happens behind closed doors with the clever use of lights to reveal a backstage setting, further unveiling yet another plane of reality within the confines of the proscenium.
Before the show even begins, you are introduced to a lively cast of characters, as they walk around the space, mingling with the audience members, along with a butler holding a tray of Merci chocolate (which you are free to take). The performance is set up in the style of a “play within a play”; the characters begin the show with a vocal warm-up and over-zealously applaud each other each time a character sings a piece.
Throughout the show, two characters who particularly stuck out in my mind were Mascarille (Sébastien Bertrand) and Marrotte (Lina Blais). Bertrand’s expressivity did not only maintain the energy throughout the second half of the show, but kept true to Moliere’s cast of Commedia dell’arte-based characters. Blais manages to stay true to the ignorance of Marotte by playing off of the comedic sensibilities of her oblivious nature.
All in all, Precious Young Ladies provides for an expressive tornado of misadventure, with energetic performances and well composed musical mischief. In watching a play such as this, we are not only reminded as to how Moliere’s plays can remain so timeless after all these years, but that they will always remain timeless due to the ever-existing nature of human imperfection.
The Precious Young Ladies runs from April 23 to May 10, 2014 at The Berkely Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St, Toronto. April 30th, May 1st-4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th at 8:00 pm with a 2:30 matinee on the 4th and a 3:30 matinee on the 3rd; Show runs for 1 hour and 20 minutes, without intermission. For tickets and more information, visit http://theatrefrancais.com/fr/spectacles/les-precieuses-ridicules/.
photo credit: Marc Lemyre
featured in photo: Sébastien Betrand, Chanda Legroulx, Alexandre Côté, Andréane Bouladier