How well do we know our friends- really know them? Do we just take them for granted? Or can we trust them with our secrets?
What’s In A Name? is an uproarious, razor-sharp dramedy that slickly swings from nastiness to hilarity. There are plot twists that are truly unexpected and jaw-dropping. The performances are electric and bring extra panache to the story. What could have been a dry tale on the hidden lives of friends is instead a juicy, energetic, at times poignant, story of secrets and mischief.
The story centres on a dinner party hosted by Peter (Pat Kiely), a University professor, and his wife Elizabeth (Erika Rosenbaum) at their Côte Ste. Catherine loft. Among the guests are family friend Claude (Matthew Gagnon), Elizabeth’s brother Vincent (Andrew Shaver) and his wife Anna (Amanda Lisman), who is expecting their first child. Vincent announces what they plan to name the baby and the choice throws the group into a fiery debate about political correctness and history. The argument opens the door into the private and dark misgivings the friends harbour against each other. It also reveals the true nature of the characters: Peter is pedantic, pretentious, and infuriating; Elizabeth is the “fixer” and taken for granted; Claude is neutral, tries not to offend or take sides; Anna is tough but supportive; Vincent is the wicked instigator, obnoxious, but likeable. Their unresolved issues strain and bite at each other. But the love is there as well as the laughs, and there is plenty to go around.
The cast is excellent. Mr. Shaver is outstanding and he uses the props, like the throw pillows, as grace notes into the alpha male Vincent. Ms. Rosenbaum brings strength and moxie to a character that could have been a doormat. Mr. Kiely has the right touch of conceit showing Peter to be a weak man. Mr. Gagnon makes a seemingly neutral person to be a delight and kindly. Ms. Lisman is glamourous and charismatic.
The set is great- hipster furniture, a view of the Mountain that anyone would envy; a real bourgeois Montreal apartment with a nerdy door code. Perfect.
While we can love our friends and family, the real test is if we can forgive the disappointments and the unpleasant truths. It’s part of the deal in relationships. And they are human, after all.
Photo credit: Leslie Schachter
What’s In A Name? : Presented by Segal Centre in collaboration with Just For Laughs. Directed by Jennifer Tarver. Written by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre De La Patellière. Adapted by Michael Mackenzie. Show continues until July 30, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. Tickets $65 to $32. Call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org