Hosanna at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

I was so captivated by Michel Tremblay’s For The Pleasure Of Seeing Her Again at the 2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival that I looked forward to seeing Hosanna, a 1973 play that I gather helped establish his reputation as a major French-Canadian playwright.

It turns out I had seen it before. Not this play specifically, but many more like it that filled stages in New York and elsewhere during the late 60s and through the 70s.

Hosanna tells the tale of a Montreal hairdresser by day drag queen by night named Hosanna (Gareth Potter) and her mismatched leather biker boyfriend, Cuirette (Oliver Becker). On the night we spend with them, Hosanna has suffered a devastating humiliation that the playwright reveals slowly during the course of the play, a sort of long night’s journey into day during which the two characters come to realize that neither of them is wholly comfortable in the roles they have assumed in life and tremble on the brink of acting on that realization.

It’s a nice enough point to make theatrically but alas after nearly forty years plays in which a character relives a hideously poignant and devastating experience and at last stands naked before us has become a cliché for those of us who have seen a fair amount of theater during that time. It is easy to see why the play made a splash in 1973, but today it has a been-there-seen-that quality that is difficult to ignore. In an interesting side note, the title role was created by Richard Monette, who later became the long-time artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival. The play transferred to Broadway in 1975, where Monette won a Drama Desk Award for his performance.

Perhaps the piece would have affected me more had it been better acted, I thought, but it’s hard to fault the work of Potter and Becker, both of whom struck me as note-perfect. Ultimately, I had to admit that, for me at least, the play had outlived its moment.

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