On my way to The Gladstone, I passed by a McDonald’s and I saw a large sign for one-dollar chicken sandwiches. I kept walking.
The English translation of Maestro presented itself to an audience for the first time on Friday evening and boy did people watch it. Even in front of the warm opening night audience, with their season passes and comp ticket enthusiasm, the play felt alienating – without the Brechtian charm.
Watching Maestro feels less like live theatre and more like live television. A dubbed 1970s sitcom, to be precise. Regrettably the translation by Nina Lauren and Danielle Ellen is imperfect and Manon Lafrenière flubbed several of her English colloquialisms. No one yelled cut. The scene continued and the literal sounding translation chugged along.
Translation aside, the plot feels dated. I cannot judge the original dialogue, as I only saw the English version, but Claude Montminy’s story – a kind of jazz improvisation on Molière’s Le Misanthrope – is clunky. The beats of the story punch predictably after preempting dialogue and the story hauls forward to the predictable albeit uncomfortable conclusion. The play is firmly rooted in the second wave of feminism. Which is odd, considering by all appearances, Maestro is set in the present.
Maude, an NAC Orchestra member with seemingly no skills other than what we learn is a moderate talent at the violin, has recently broken up with Ryan, a composer of porn music and commercial jingles, and after a chance encounter in an elevator has invited The Maestro home for dinner. Maude does not know how to cook and has, prior to the play, made her mother cook for her. Ryan drops by to pick up a deep fryer without having texted first, and finds – as we all find – that The Maestro is inexplicably taking a shower in his house. Ryan gets jealous, The Maestro shows the actors (not the audience) his penis, and the three discuss dead birds.
The play is firmly rooted in the second wave of feminism. Which is odd, considering by all appearances, Maestro is set in the present.
The Maestro thinks, for obvious reasons, that the dinner invitation was a date. Ryan thinks this was a date. Maude isn’t sure if this was a date because “she will do anything to advance her career.” Okay.
Maude ends up on her knees and Ryan puts a stop to it. There are hurt feelings and references to Vanier in between. Over and over again Ryan exclaims, “I should have gone to McDonald’s,” constantly reminding the audience that this is only happening because he didn’t call or text before showing up at his ex’s house.
“I should have gone to McDonald’s.”
The set is again reminiscent of a 1970s three-camera sitcom, and the acting is over the top and rudderless. The lighting and sound design is fine and actually works really well.
If you pay for tickets the show costs thirty-eight bucks taxes in, which comes out to be 36 one-dollar chicken sandwiches, apparently available now at McDonald’s. Don’t quote me on that – I didn’t go to McDonald’s. I saw a play at The Gladstone instead and now you are reading a review that I have written of the play that I watched. Everybody makes choices. If that seems like an awkward phrase, or if you stopped when you read the word predictable twice in one sentence, if “boy did they watch it” felt out of place… then I would consider not seeing this play – because the translation will bother you.
Maestro is playing at The Gladstone (910 Gladstone Ave) until June 10, alternating between performances in English and in French. Visit www.thegladstone.ca for the schedule. Tickets cost $22–36 online and at the box office.