Kicking off the Centaur's season of plays all having something to do with Montreal is David Fennario's Condoville. Condoville, directed by Gordon McCall, is a sequel to his wildly successful play Balconville which graced stages 25 years ago. Condoville happens in the same gritty working class area of Pointe St. Charles that Balconville did. Actually, Condoville is about the residents of the same four-plex from Balconville. We get to catch up with the beloved characters of Johnny (Kent Allen), Irene (Patricia Yeatman), Thibault (Jean Archambault), Cécile (Yolande Circé) and Claude Paquette (Michel Perron) we met 25 years ago. We are also introduced to Filipe (Quincy Armorer), Andrew (Neil Napier) and Bibi-Diane (Madeleine Péloquin) a few new residents of the co-op. From the beginning of the play you realize that not much has changed and yet everything has changed for the residents of the co-op. They are the same people but the world around them has changed.
The whole bilingual play takes place in the back yard of this typical Pointe four-plex. Thibault is still riding his bike, doing small errands for the Paquettes and collecting bottles. His life has changed in that his mother has died and he seems to be living on the street. Claude Paquette has bad knees and is fighting to get his disability pension. Cécile is worried about her granddaughter BiBi Diane, who is living somewhere on the streets. Irene is working as a waitress in a bar and Johnny, who is just out of jail, is playing his guitar for money in Guy metro. Andrew and Filipe are a gay male couple who have bought one of the ground floor residences. Filipe is from the Congo and is studying at Concordia and Andrew is working with Willa, who is a member of the Montreal city council. There is much conflict between all the residences. They're worried about the funding for their co-op being cut. Claude is constantly yelling at Cécile because she is forgetful and always stepping on his toes. Johnny is forever antagonizing Claude about the Parti Québécois or being a francophone. Irene is worried that Johnny is doing something illegal and will be put back in jail. Andrew is continuously mad at everyone for something or other. The tension comes to a head when there is a riot at the local shelter for the homeless and Thibault brings BiBi Diane to live in Muriel's place while she is not there. Cécile is happy that her granddaughter is back, but Claude and Andrew aren't. Andrew is afraid that a neighbor will call to tell someone on the council about BiBi Diane living there and the co-op's funding will be cut completely. Claude is afraid that his granddaughter will bring drugs back into their lives.
Condoville once again demonstrates Fennario's uncanny ability to understand the working class people of the Pointe and translate that understanding into a play. If you know anything about this area of Montreal and its residents then you will recognize it and them in Fennario's characters; they are all authentic and recognizable. He is still as motivated to make political statements about this part of the city and the ever changing world we live in as he was 25 years ago. The issues he addresses in Condoville are modern ones and more of the global variety than those in Balconville. Condoville might be about The Pointe, but this could be any working class area of any major city in the world. The issues addressed are happening all over. This is definitely not a play with no depth or meaning just because it is presented primarily as a comedy. He really clearly portrays the clash of a time past with modernity. The issue of the gentrification of the working class areas of Montreal is something that obviously concerns Fennario. He points out that with all the condos going up where there used to be low-cost housing is pushing people out of this area and then the problem becomes where do they live? Can they afford to live anywhere else? Why should they be forced out of their homes in the name of cosmetic improvements? We have to realize that something is being gained, but we also have to acknowledge that something is being lost at the same time. One of the more poignant parts of the play is at the very end when the character of Thibault says about those being forced out, "Maybe they'll come back or maybe they won't".
Centaur's website: www.centaurtheatre.com (can purchase tickets on website)
Centaur's box office phone number: (514) 288-3161
Ticket prices: Adults: $38.00-$41.50, Matinees: $30.00, Seniors $26-$31.50, Students (with valid ID): $20.00