After acting as guest director on the Little Theatre Group’s (LTG) “The Good Body” in 2005, I couldn’t help but return to work with this little theater group in the western San José suburb of Bello Horizonte de Escazú. As a minority Anglophone in Canada’s francophone province of Quebec, this intercultural experience is particularly enriching, considering that LTG is Central America’s oldest English-language theater company, with a vibrant group of passionate members from all walks of life.
With support from LTG and the Quebec City-based Office Québec-Amériques pour la jeunesse, which provides entrepreneurial and cultural exchanges for Quebecois youth throughout the Americas, my visit provides the opportunity to present a Quebec play, teach workshops and discuss contemporary “Canuck” theater with Costa Ricans.
Evelyne de la Chenelière’s “Strawberries in January” (“Des fraises en janvier”) is a great example of Canadian theater’s blend of North American realism and Quebec’s more European, physical and imagistic styles. With a topnotch English translation by Toronto- based Morwyn Brebner, this romantic comedy is not your usual “rom-com” fare.
Featuring four Montreal singletons in pursuit of love, happiness and fulfillment, the play tosses around all the crazy, mixedup lies we tell for love, even when it’s right under our noses.
Montreal café owner and budding screenwriter François (played by Theodore Hope) imagines, much like the playwright herself, what life would be like if we were all living in a movie, where we can all call “Cut!” and start over again if things aren’t working out.
Hope, a computer scientist, co-founder of San José’s InterNexo and a teacher at the Technology Institute of Costa Rica in Cartago, east of the capital, says he is having fun in his challenging and goofy role as the daydreamer François.
“Like François,” Hope muses, “I imagine my own movie-like, fantasy scenarios that involve people who surround me, but never going to François’ extremes of lying.”
Hope’s character, in love with his obsessive-compulsive ex-girlfriend and roommate Sophie (who’s always dreaming of finding the right Valentino-esque “package”), decides to test out Hollywood romance by setting up Sophie with French literature professor Robert (played by Ron Boston), a regular at his café. As Sophie, Chiquita Brands executive Sheila Morrison admits to her own idiosyncrasies.
“I actually thought I was pretty neurotic until I met my character Sophie,” Morrison laughs, “so I’m feeling pretty good about myself these days. Sophie’s desperate pursuit of the perfect man is actually hard for me to understand, as I was one of those lucky ones, who, at 28, really wasn’t looking for love, when my future husband walked in the door and I just knew.”
Throw in the zany innkeeper and Sophie’s childhood friend Léa (played by the delightful Sally O’Boyle), and the fine line is quickly drawn between truth and lies, fantasy and fact, and reality and fiction. As the professor with secrets of his own, former Radio Dos morning disc jockey “Dr. Ron” Boston is beginning to savor his role.
“I play a pretentious college professor – I wonder if I was typecast?” Boston jokes. “Actually, this is a challenging role for me.
In real life, my character and I probably wouldn’t get along well.”
Ah, the things we do for love.
Writer and director David King holds an honors BFA in performance from Montreal’s ConcordiaUniversity, where he co-founded the bilingual, project-based company OUT Productions in 1997. Recent credits include “The Graduate” (assistant to Miles Potter, Grand Theatre, London, Ontario), “Story of My Life” (assistant to Michael Bush, Canadian Stage Co., Toronto), “Hysteria,” “Crave,” “Pterodactyls” and “Jocasta” (University of Alberta, Edmonton), and “Regeneration” (Theatre Network, Edmonton).