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The Unexpected Man

By Jasmina Reza

Translator Christopher Hampton Director Katrina Dunn

Dates 4 – 21 October 2006 Venue Jericho Arts Centre

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Jasmina Reza is well known in Europe as a playwright, actress, novelist and screenwriter. The Unexpected Man has enjoyed successful productions in France, England, Scandinavia, Germany and New York. Her latest play, Dans la luge d’Arthur Schopenhauer, opened at the Théâtre Ouvert in Paris, where it will run until the end of October.

Wednesday saw the Vancouver premiere of the internationally popular and successful comedy, The Unexpected Man. In the first night audience was a member of the French Embassy in Ottawa.

Have you ever wondered about your fellow passengers on a train journey? Or have you come face to face with your favourite contemporary author and wondered if you should be bold enough to engage him/her in conversation?

This play explores this scenario from the point of view of the author on his fellow passenger, and she, from her perspective as a dedicated reader. On the journey from Paris to Frankfurt, their musings and suppositions are revealing and entertainingly verbalised. This is a witty and amusing comedy, with deep inner explorations of life and the human condition, from both the masculine and feminine viewpoint, and from the famous and the unknown.

The lights come up on the stage set with two chairs. Enter The Man, (William Taylor), then The Woman, (Christine Willes). They take their seats. He, world weary and self-absorbed, opens the play with a disillusioned monologue. She, smiling (anticipating a happy journey?), takes her book from her handbag and recognises the man opposite her as the author. Hastily, she puts it away. She is excited and apprehensive.

As the journey proceeds their moods change, the circumstances of their lives direct the ensuing monologues until… Yes, they do communicate ultimately, after much reminiscing, soul searching and voicing of inner experimental rehearsals of unspoken opinions.

The evening ends in hearty laughter. Dunn ably directs this stylishly well performed and unerringly lit presentation. For me, there is a small flaw in the direction, in that the moving of the chairs interrupts the flow of the play and is distracting and unnecessary. Otherwise, this is a stellar premiere, and one not to be missed.

© 2006 Jane Penistan