Now onstage at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, Les Belles-soeurs (The Sisters-in-law) presents 15 women in the English language version of the gritty romp. The Ruby Slippers Theatre Production, directed by Diane Brown, was Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay’s first professionally produced play. Les Belles-soeurs was risque and vulgar when it premiered 50 years ago, and is just as bold and topical today.
The play finds a gathering of women coming together to in the kitchen of Madame Germaine Lauzon (played with gusto by France Perras), who has won one million Gold Star loyalty stamps, to help paste the stamps into books. M. Lauzon’s sisters, sisters-in-law, daughter, neighbours and friends arrive in varying states of excitement for the prize-winner. Over the course of the evening, the ladies bond over bingo, men, and their mundane lives. Boasting about her win stirs jealousy amongst the ladies, who covet Germaine’s precious win. Gradually petty gossip, scandal, oversharing, and clashing egos result in a tumultuous, and often hysterical, party.
When Tremblay wrote the play, during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, telling a story about the working class, let alone 15 working class women, doing working class things was groundbreaking. Add in the fact that no topic of conversation and no language seemed to be taboo, Les Belles-soeurs set off controversy and tested the Quebec Theatre establishment. Gender roles, control of the Church, ageism, teen-pregnancy, family-squabbles all continue to resonate today, especially topical in the #metoo era.
In this Gateway production, each of the 15 women turn in captivating performances that together becomes one of the best ensembles we’ve seen onstage in a while. While all of them are great, France Perras, Beatrice Zeilinger, Tallulah Winkelman, and Emilie Leclerc, as the sisters, stand out with the bulk of the drama. As well, Lucia Frangione as the jealous neighbour who leads the revolt against Germaine, provides plenty of fireworks and comedy.
Enjoy the drama and comedy of Ruby Slippers Theatre’s Les Belles-Soeurs at Gateway Theatre until October 6. Tickets are available online or at the Gateway Box Office now.