One way in which we are all distinguishable from one another in our sphere is the moniker with which we are bestowed when we come into the world. Aside from our visual particulars like hair colour, eye colour, and of course our physiological sex, we are stamped with what is simply called: our name. It can be chosen going along with the socio-cultural trends of the geographic spot where we begin life, as the time and place of our birth have been proven to influence the selection of what our name might be.
First, or “proper,” names in the past in the Western hemisphere were often dictated by class distinction, as well as ethnic background. As cultures blended and mass media brought people together and began to exert influence, and essentially blur the lines of these class-based and cultural distinctions, people here began to name their offspring anything they pretty much felt like. Sometimes, it would be traditional; other times, trendy – perhaps following the lead of someone famous they’d read about or as a result of nominal research carried out online; and sometimes, it can be downright outrageous and controversial. Ask the cast of characters seated around the dinner table in What’s in a Name at the Segal Centre this month, about how one word, one label or stamp, can incite a maelstrom of mayhem.
What’s in a Name began life, and is most well-known as, an international theatrical sensation called Le Prénom, penned by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière, and it debuted with vigor and unabashed incredulity in the fall of 2010. Now, after worldwide success, and having been translated into a chez nous English tour de force presentation by Michael McKenzie, it is being presented at the Segal as part of the official program of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, the Fous de théâtre, de la scène à la rue, to be specific.
McKenzie pulled out all the stops to give it a feel of Montreal authenticity, including setting the histrionics about to detonate between Westmount and the newest, trendiest Montreal neighborhood for the avant-garde crowd, Mile-Ex (which, as you may have guessed, is the faux-chic name given to the increasingly upscale urban sprawl, once sort of abandoned neighborhood, between Mile End and Park Extension).
This fine folk, who are set to enjoy a lively, scrumptious dinner between friends, are overtaken by the uncomfortable sensation of indigestion and a naturally involuntary workout given by their gag reflex setting in, all thanks to Vincent, who reveals to the group what he and his wife have in mind for the name of their unborn son. One might as well shut the proverbial barn door as a pier-six verbal brawl is about to erupt and may leave hurt feelings at the least, and broken friendships at the most, in its wake.
Vincent is delivered to the stage with zany zest by the amiable Andrew Shaver, while multitalented stage performers Matthew Gagnon, Pat Kiely, Amanda Lisman, and Erika Rosenbaum round out the cast of platonic compatriots about to throw down. Jennifer Tarver, artistic director of Necessary Angel Theatre Company in Toronto and recipient of multiple awards for directing and creating, manages the dynamite-doused dialogue while serving as director of this splendid adaptation.
It goes to show: friends are valuable, can support you in times of trials and tribulations, and often make great dinner party companions. Just watch what you say, and what you name your unborn child, as the genie that may be uncorked from that bottle may prove difficult to successfully reinsert. But you won’t want to take your eyes and ears off this laugh-a-minute contained volcanic eruption of buddy warfare, playing at the Segal until July 30th.
Visit segalcentre.org for more information or call the box office at (514) 739-7944 .