French writer Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) wrote prolifically for every medium: plays, novels, stories, screenplays, and was also a filmmaker. She is best known in the U.S. for her autobiographical novel The Lover, which was made into a successful film in 1992, and for her classic 1959 screenplay for Hiroshima Mon Amour.
Currently being staged at The Met Theatre, in Los Angeles, is L”™Amante Anglais (The English Lover), a gripping crime drama about a shocking murder.
In a translation by Barbara Bray, the play is drawn from Marguerite Duras”™ story L”™Amante Anglaise and is essentially a two-act two-hander, by which I mean each act has only two actors on stage. Alex Monsky plays the Interrogator, Gerry Bamman plays Pierre and Caroline Ducrocq plays Claire. Thanks to the superb performances from all three actors, what could easily be two dull duologues is elevated to a riveting period drama.
Duras”™ story is, in essence, a police procedural with all the emphasis on the interrogation of witnesses aspect. It”™s the early sixties in France. A grisly crime has been committed, a confession made; the culprit is in custody. All that is left is for the Detective to piece together the facts of the crime and the events as they happened chronologically. It”™s when the Interrogator attempts to understand the motive that he becomes unstuck.
As the Interrogator interviews first the husband, Pierre, and then the woman herself, a portrait of their domestic life starts to appear and take shape, much like the picture of a jigsaw puzzle.
It transpires that Claire Lannes murdered her cousin, the deaf-mute Marie-Therese, dismembered her and then disposed of the pieces in a truly ingenious (though not fool-proof) fashion. The victim had lived with the couple for over twenty years and served as their live-in maid.
The Detective begins questioning Claire”™s husband, Pierre. What complicity may he have had in Claire”™s violent acts? Did he in any way drive her to her misdeeds? Does he still love her?
During the course of the first interrogation with the Husband, a portrait of an estranged marriage emerges. Grumpy Pierre is not much help shedding light on his eccentric wife”™s behavior, apart from describing her tendency to spend hours in her beloved garden. Distinguished actor Gerry Bamman is perfect as the craggy old curmudgeon, conveying his own dismay and confusion about his wife”™s behavior, both before and after the crime, during the questioning. Alex Monsky is also great as the Interrogator, bringing a quiet gravitas to his role as a seasoned yet increasingly baffled Detective.
But this play really belongs to the superb Caroline Ducrocq, who gives a brilliant and pitch-perfect performance as the inscrutable Claire. Playing her as a serious and matter-of-fact person, the compact Ducrocq conveys this quintessential French woman from a past era. Claire”™s stance is a fascinating one; she did the crime and confessed – what more is there to say? The persistent Detective wants to get to the bottom of this sensational crime but the more questions he asks, the deeper into a murky morass he seems to sink. What impelled Claire to engage in such extreme behavior? What happened in Claire”™s past to lead her to this point? Is Claire a madwoman? And where, oh where, is Marie-Therese”™s missing head?!
Of course, this spellbinding play does not answer all the questions it poses, and that just makes it all the more intriguing. Above all, it offers a snapshot of what life was like in a certain time and place for these singular characters.
The MET Theater and Delicatessen productions present The English Lover. Produced by Caroline Ducrocq, Palu Koslo and Carl Ford, the play by Duras premiered in 1968, one year after the 1967 novel bearing the same title. It was inspired by a “fait divers,” meaning a sensational news item.
It tells the story of Claire Lannes, a murderess who confesses to the crime she committed but never explains why she did such a thing. The play draws on the relationship that is slowly established between the murderess and the “interrogator” for as long as he questions him. His will to understand, explain and shed light on the unspeakable equals her obscurity and silence.
L”™Amante Anglaise is only running until Sunday November 22nd, so book your tickets now!
The MET Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90029
RUNS: until Sunday Nov 22nd, 2009
Thurs, Fri, Sat 8:30 pm
Sunday 7 pm
Tickets are $10.00
For reservations, please call: (323) 960 1052
Online ticketing here
review by Pauline Adamek