For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again: The Making of a Playwright

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
By Michel Tremblay
Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Performed by Leah Pinsent and Jonathan Crombie
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
July 4 to 15, 2012

The Narrator begins the play by telling the audience that this show isn’t going to be special – he goes to great lengths to say that this isn’t Shakespeare, nor Moliere, nor Chekov. In fact, he insists that this play is just about an ordinary mother.

But while it may not be the works of the historical great playwrights, it is the life of Michel Tremblay, arguably Canada’s best playwright. It’s unfortunate that he isn’t widely known outside Quebec, but thankfully, translations of his plays are being produced in English-speaking Canada now. For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again is my personal favourite of Tremblay’s works. What makes this play extraordinary is that he shares how he was influenced by his mother to become a playwright, in a touching, funny way. The audience gets to watch the nurturing of a great writer. 

Tremblay tells the story through an autobiographical narrator. The narrator and his mother bring to life several incidents starting when Tremblay was 10 and going through to age 20, when sadly his mother falls ill. His mother loved the melodramatic, whether it was in the French novels she read, or in the movies she watched, or when she herself was telling stories. Her vignettes were wildly exaggerated, very dramatic and always funny. At one point, the young narrator tells her that someone asked him where he got his imagination. The answer is obvious.

This production of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again currently on stage at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia has captured Tremblay’s story superbly. Leah Pinsent is a wonderful Nana: She loses her temper with her young son and yet, we can see her love for him and her pride in him. Pinsent has great chemistry with Jonathan Crombie who plays Tremblay/Narrator. She shows her comedic skills in presenting an imitation of her niece Lucille’s ballet recital, which the audience loves.

Crombie is handles the role perfectly, growing from a fidgety kid to a concerned young man, right before our eyes. He takes us on the journey with him as we watch him evolve into an excellent observer and chronicler of humanity.

Of course, Leah Pinsent and Jonathan Crombie have the experience to handle these complex parts. Pinsent will be familiar for her many roles on Canadian television, appearing recently in TV movie Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and in the series Murdoch Mysteries. Crombie is best known as Gilbert Blyth in the Anne of Green Gables TV movies, and more recently appeared on Broadway as “Man in Chair” in The Drowsy Chaperone. Credit goes to Victoria Playhouse’s David Rogers and David Hogan for bringing in these amazingly talented actors to Petrolia, and to Director Daryl Cloran for giving life Tremblay’s story and Gaboriau’s words.

Both Pinsent and Crombie have famous fathers – Leah is the daughter of Gordon Pinsent, who has a long resumé of television and film roles. Jonathan is the son of David Crombie, who, in the 70s was known as Toronto’s “tiny, perfect mayor”. 

I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with Gordon Pinsent and Leah’s husband Peter Keleghan, who is probably best known as Ranger Gord on the Red Green Show, and for his role in the Made in Canada TV series, as well as many other TV shows. Both were there to see Leah’s opening night performance.

The only disappointment in the show was the set for final scene – which should have been a beautiful view of Saskatchewan. The set just didn’t live up to the excitement it created.

This is the 3rd time I have seen For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again – first at London’s Grand Theatre in 2007 with the husband and wife team of Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson in the roles. Pitre used a charming French Canadian accent and obviously the two had great chemistry. In 2012, I saw it in Stratford with Lucy Peacock and Tom Rooney. I found that production a little too angry, lacking warmth between mother and son. Pinsent and Crombie found the warmth and the balance that is evident in Tremblay’s writing. I was so taken with the play that I went out and purchased a copy after seeing it the first time and I also convinced a French class I attended at College Boreal to read the original version.  Tremblay has delightfully captured an endearing mother-son relationship, and Victoria Playhouse has done it justice.

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until July 15. Call the box office at or for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca

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A member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Mary Alderson reviews shows at area theatres and posts blogs at www.entertainthisthought.com .