“What’s in a name?”
Well, a lot…

…according to the international hit comedy now at the Segal

By Byron Toben

Le Prenom was the original title of this acidly funny play authored by Parisian screenwriters Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre De La Patelliere, which went on to play in thirty plus countries and become a hit film in French as well.

Montrealer Michael Mackenzie’s fine adaptation and translation, moving the setting from a gentrifying Paris arrondissement to our own Mile End district, introduces a Shakespearean phrase into said title from Juliet’s speech from the balcony. (Old Willy was big on the effects of names. Witness, in Julius Caesar, the mob tearing Cinna the poet into pieces despite his protestations that he is not Cinna the conspirator. “Kill him for his name” they cry.)

What’s in a Name - WestmountMag.ca

In this spirit, two pages of the program ask the quintet of superb actors in the show for their thoughts on their own names. At the end of this review, I will comment on my own as well.

In the plot, Peter (actor/filmmaker Pat Kiely) is a liberal minded McGill prof wedded to a Cegep teacher, Elizabeth (Erika Rosenbaum). They have invited her wealthy real estate brother, Vincent (Andrew Shaver) and his wife, Anna (Amanda Lisman) to dinner. Quiet family friend, classical musician Claude (Matthew Gagnon) is also invited.

What’s in a Name - WestmountMag.caAs Anna is pregnant, the conversation turns to the name to be chosen for the new arrival – a boy, as shown by ultrasound.

Vincent’s cagey refusal to answer, and final answer under pressure, touches off arguments to change his mind and serves to reveal suppressed feelings and hidden family secrets.

I found Andrew Shaver’s mannerisms and improvs particularly inventive. He, as the right-winger in the group, exhibited certain Trump-like antics in debating with his ultra liberal brother in law.

Director Jennifer Tarver, a Stratford Ontario alum (as are Mr. Shaver and Ms. Lisman) kept things moving at a proper pace, aided by the usual Segal top notch technical staff.

I found Andrew Shaver’s mannerisms and improvs particularly inventive. He… exhibited certain Trump-like antics in debating with his ultra liberal brother in law.

Throughout the evening, I kept remembering the Seinfeld episode in which baseball Yankees fan George vociferously urged his expectant friends to name the new kid ‘Seven’, that being the number of Mickey Mantle.

This production, the last of the Segal’s 2016-2017 season, is in collaboration with the Just For Laughs festival. So despite the family disputes and fights, laughs aplenty abound in this show. I may even see it a second time later.

What’s in a Name - WestmountMag.caOh, yeah, me and my own name. You can view my January WestmountMag.ca article Lord Byron, G.Bernard Shaw, Gene Tunney and Me.

“What’s in a Name?” continues at the Segal until July 30.
More information at 514 739-7944 or segalcentre.org

Feature image: Leslie Schachter
All other images: Andrée Lanthier

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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