“You know, you can feel several different ways about the same thing at the same time” is a quote from Johanna Nutter’s play “Mon Frère est Enceinte” (also played in English and known as “My Pregnant Brother”), performed tonight at the 23rd annual Fringe Festival, which showcases a variety of artistic pieces, such as dance, music, theatre and more. For a writer who is struggling to find words for her performance, no statement could be truer.
Before the play began, I was greeted by a smiling Nutter, and one wouldn’t think that such a happy looking woman was burdened with the responsibility to pick the pieces of a family broken by a member’s (formerly her sister and now her brother) desire to belong in their own skin. She tackles the sensitive issue of gender roles and norms, and her story is proof that gender is more than meets the eye. There is something for everyone in this play. Intertwined with other themes, such as family, sexuality, suicide, love, infertility, and abortion, Nutter managed to contrast this dark subject matter with light humour and small delightful anecdotes (does anyone have spare change for a sex change?) Her strong performance was all the more impressive with a minimally ornate setting, as she was equipped with a chair, a red gift-rapped box, and chalk-drawn streets and Mount-Royal in the background. No need for any gimmicks when Nutter’s act was bigger than the Mainline Theatre and boulevard Saint-Laurent itself.
She captivated an audience through utter silence, as she re-enacted the moment she found out on Christmas day her brother gave up his daughter for adoption. Her face, the only part of her body visible under the ruby red lighting, made it seem as though time had stopped, just for a couple of moments, engulfing the audience in her horror, in her reality. Following what I thought was the most powerful and compelling moment of the play, she opened the gift her mother sent; quite possibly the most hideous, Christmas decoration-like, green-sparkly dress. And, almost instantaneously, she brought smiles and laughs to a crowd who I think was still recovering from the previous scene. When she smiled, you smiled; it’s as simple as that. The purity and authenticity with which she told her incredibly surreal story took my breath away, and I still have yet to catch it.
Visit her website: http://www.johannanutter.com/
For more shows at the Mainline Theatre, visit: http://www.mainlinetheatre.ca/
For more on the Fringe Festival, visit: http://www.montrealfringe.ca/en