Strawberries in January, written by Évelyne de la Chenelière in French and translated by Morwyn Brebner, is a story about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and having things work out nonetheless.
After seeing Strawberries in January put on by the Lions Den Theater company, I’m reminded of the old adage: Timing is everything. The show is upbeat and witty enough to make you laugh out loud at a time of year when seasonal affective disorder runs rampant.
Directed by Christine Daniels, the show follows four singles in Montreal: Francois (Daniel Gervais), Sophie (Jozel Bennett), Lea (Ambyr Dunn), and Robert (Dave Rossetti).
The story tracks their relationships as they intertwine into a tangled mess. Francois and Sophie are roommates who decide to get married and then break up because Francois has a strange encounter with a woman named Lea in the cafe where he works. Lea had been in town looking for her childhood friend, Sophie. Then Francois meets Robert, who claims to be a professor at the University of Montreal. Robert—oddly enough—had a one-night stand with Lea a while back but hasn’t heard from her since. Then Francois makes the odd decision to set up Sophie and Robert on a date without telling Robert that he and Sophie used to be an item.
Got all that?
Daniels says the hardest part of putting on this play was figuring out the timeline of events. The one-act play isn’t presented chronologically, so it can get confusing. But take heart if you do see it. Even the director admits that it is a confusing play, so you are not alone.
“We wanted to present the audience with something charming,” says Daniels.
It was charming. The play between the characters was funny and honest.
Near the end, Sophie berates Francois for having “no sense of timing” which I find ironic because the whole cast had great comedic timing.
The play also has its sombre moments. It is that excellent mixture of funny and sad.
My only criticism would be the costumes. At one point, one of the characters pops onto the stage with a rather unconvincing baby bump. I found the belly distracting, as it was quite square and lumpy. As someone who has personally attempted to recreate a baby-bump to see what I would look like if I were pregnant in a fit of boredom, I can attest that it is not that tricky to make a realistic-looking bump.
I digress: the staging was sparse but nice. There were little touches, like piles of books and a silk scarf tablecloth, that were just right for the backdrop of 20-somethings living in Montreal.
Just before the house lights went down, the director described the show aptly as “a sprint! A one hour and 15-minute sprint through a year in these characters’ lives.”
So, if you’re looking for something sweet and juicy this Jan. 16-20, head on down to the Bus Stop Theatre for Strawberries in January.
Play times: Thursday, Jan 17 @ 8 p.m.; Friday, Jan 18 @ 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan 19 @ 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan 20 @ 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20 reg / $15 artists, students, seniors