While there’s always been a place for the “live and local” news that defines most of the city’s successful media outlets, “live and local” has always been recognized as the key to a successful play ever since Sophocles first decided to write Oedipus Rex some 2,500 years ago. As Montreal was once described as a “city full of small villages,” the city’s artists are still drawing upon their “live & local” roots to produce the kind of art that reflects both their city, their province and its people within the rest of North America. While Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne still leads you to the river, Michel Tremblay’s Belles Soeurs are still gathered around the kitchen table in the city’s east – and with nothing more than their dreams and a handful of green stamps to help them keep the faith.
As of this Friday the 13th, Montreal’s Testa family will be back on the stage at McGill University’s Moyse Hall in Vittorio Rossi’s classic and critically acclaimed “The Chain.” As they get ready to receive relations from the old country in Ville Émard they get their chance to show off their new home and the immigrant’s success story. As ever, it’s a Montreal play that’s firmly set in both time and place where both love and hate go on to define a family’s history over at least two to three generations.
“From a playwright’s point of view, family dynamics offer incredible power for drama,” said Rossi — arguably Canada’s leading playwright — in a recent interview. “The bulk of Shakespeare’s plays deal with family drama. They may be royal families, but it is family nonetheless.”
Based upon a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of theatre in ancient Greece, Rossi understands that neither love nor hate have any effect beyond themselves unless the two are combined within the context of a single family. While it sets the stage for good theatre, it also outlines both the drama and the realities of what’s lost, and often lost forever. And aside from all the life, passion, and pride that defines the Testa family’s time in Ville Émard, The Chain is all about loss when family ties are ruptured by jealousy, envy, and often fatal betrayals.
Staged by Montreal businessman and philanthropist Barry Lorenzetti, The Chain will be the first remount of three Rossi plays that are meant to bring the Italo-Canadian experience to the stage. Legacy – a sequel that describes what happens to the Testa family 30 years after their initial family reunion will be followed by Paradise by the River that Lorenzetti has already described as his favorite play.