By Anna Chan
If winner is spelled B-I-N-G-O, then the University of Calgary Drama Department’s Les Belles-Soeurs hits the jackpot.
The highlight of Les Belles-Soeurs is a tribute to bingo. Not only are all of the actors expressive and intense, but the lighting effects add to the brilliance and hilarity of moments in the play. As a group of middle-aged women become excited over the thought of playing bingo, many of them stand on chairs, arms outstretched, heads turned towards Heaven, as though thanking God. To make a comical moment even more expressive, the younger women in the play retreat back into a corner, and watch on in disbelief.
The story begins as the women in question raid Germaine Lauzon’s home. After winning a million gold stamps, she enlists their assistance to paste them all into booklets. Gradually, they begin to pocket fully-pasted booklets into their own purses. Germaine’s scandalous younger sister pays an unexpected visit, and like everyone else, is actually there to take advantage of her sister’s fortune. Linda Lauzon, Germaine’s teenage daughter, is restricted from going out. With nowhere to go, Linda and two of her friends also invade the premises, feigning interest in her mother’s party.
All in all, the play was a delight to watch–but only after the friends of the main character begin to arrive. The actresses portraying her many friends are fantastic, both individually and as a group, and makes them a strong base to the play. The chorus moments are very intense and perfectly timed. Not a beat is missed as the audience is completely engrossed.
Unfortunately, Devona Reid’s portrayal of Germaine Lauzon leaves room for exuberance and is unable to hold a strong stage presence alone. Reid holds her character back and is unconvincing when flipping through a catalogue. The pregnant teenager Lise Paquette, played by Laura Larocque, is also unable to make her situation interesting, and fails to create a feeling of sympathy in the audience.
Finally, the concluding scene is not as powerful as it could have been–both visually and audibly–as Reid is again alone on stage and unconvincing. In the background, a poor quality performance of Oh Canada plays, abruptly cuts off and disrupts the illusion of reality.
What this play really needs is more Angéline Sauvé. Breanne Feigel plays a very amiable Angéline, someone that could be walking among us, wanting to get to know us and vice-versa. And yes, someone to go "clubbing" with, despite the protest of her peers. The part of Olivine Dubuc (Alexis Hann-igan), the 93-year-old wheelchair-bound mother-in-law, has only a few lines but each one overflows with laughter. Hannigan is able to steal focus by simply attempting to drink her Coke from a straw, only to have the straw fall out or flip over to the other unreachable side of the glass.
Finally, it’s also impossible to see this play and not take note of the set. The silhouetted houses, clotheslines and telephone poles against a background that changes colour, are stunning. Nonetheless, the chorus and well-designed set in Les Belles-Soeurs outweigh the weak acting from some members of the cast.
Overall, Les Belles-Soeurs calls out the right numbers and achieves a blackout.