Michel Tremblay’s Hosanna is a declaration of the heart

The English translation of the iconic play examines sex and identity in 1970s Montreal

Although Michel Tremblay’s remarkable play, Hosanna, hails from the 1970s, it has lost none of its relevance or poignancy. This perplexing play has been catapulted into the 21st century by Director Mike Payette and his incredible cast at Tableau D’Hôte Theatre.

The play centres around Hosanna, an aging drag queen living in Montreal with her leather-clad partner Cuirette. Eloi ArchamBaudoin articulates the role of Hosanna with a careful brilliance. ArchamBaudoin and Davide Chiazzese, who plays the incorrigible Cuirette, strike a real chord while moving audiences with their vulnerability. The emotional complexities of their multi-layered relationship drives the 90 minutes of this powerful one-act play. ArchamBaudoin and Chiazzese breathe new life into Tremblay’s searing and truly heartfelt dialogue.

The English adaptation, translated by John Van Burek and Bill Glassco in 1974, manages to stay true to the richness of the inimitable Quebecois dialect without fully assimilating or neutralizing Hosanna’s rawness. The inclusion of French sacramental profanities undoubtedly enhances the comedy of this piece.

Michel Tremblay’s 1970s-penned play Hosanna delves into the flair of a drag queen living in Montreal.

The audience follows Hosanna as she explores the aftermath of a practical joke that she was the victim of earlier that night. She describes her transition from a rural Quebecois town to Montreal—what felt like a city of promise for a queer person in the 1970s. Imagine her surprise at being publicly humiliated by her friends in the queer community, and by her partner Cuirette as well. Hosanna and Cuirette passionately spar as Hosanna feels the full force of this betrayal.

Throughout the course of the night, Hosanna slowly deconstructs her elaborate transformation into the most-regal Cleopatra as embodied by her icon, Elizabeth Taylor. This play explores the themes of what it is like to feel like an outsider—even an outsider in your own body. How much of our identity is performance and how much is essence? As Hosanna disrobes in front of Cuirette, we are asked to ponder the piercing vulnerability of this question.

It remains a mystery how Michel Tremblay was able to capture the powerful realness of the human experience in such a way that it still resonates with audiences today. The artistic team at Tableau D’Hôte Theatre have awoken a classic love story and rendered it for the contemporary stage with beauty and heart.

Hosanna is playing at MainLine Theatre (3997 St-Laurent) Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 29. Tickets are $20/$15 for students.

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