The cast of the Ruby Slippers Theatre production of Apres Moi as part of its upcoming double bill.
The cast of the Ruby Slippers Theatre production of Apres Moi as part of its upcoming double bill.

An exploration of the human connection, of guilt, loss and healing, Ruby Slippers Theatre’s Après Moi and The List are slow burning, compelling and rich.

[pullquote]It is Après Moi, the first installment of the evening, and the premiere of the English translation of this play, which so beautifully captures the nature of the human experience.[/pullquote]Both one-act plays, translated from the original French, are a testament to the skills of both playwrights and their translators. Add a cast that are a who’s who of some of Vancouver’s best actors and the result is a moving evening of theatre to ponder for days after.

The second offering in the evening, The List, is a haunting monologue from a lonely country housewife who fills her days with lists of chores that don’t ever reach a final goal – laundry, shopping, cleaning, calling. Despite her clear longing for a richer life, there’s a tinge of The Stepford Wife about her perspective. Actor Frances Perras succeeds in bitter sweetly remembering a series of seemingly trivial decisions that, she believes, led to the death of her only local friend.

But it’s Après Moi, the first installment of the evening, and the premiere of the English translation of this play, which so beautifully captures the nature of the human experience.

In three identical hotel rooms, three very different crises are unfolding. Matthew (Scott Bellis), a disheveled, unstable middle-aged man nervously paces his room and takes a concoction of substances. In the room to the right, Stephanie the hairdresser (Dawn Petten) tries to seduce an emotionally baffled professor (Chirag Naik) she just picked up. In the third room, a middle-aged couple with deep divides (Jennifer Lines and David Bloom) revisit a room furnished with unwanted memories.

These scenes repeat six times, each increasing in their intimacy. We quickly realize how different a consequence can be when we add more compassion or connection to its interpretation. Each variation leaves us with a melancholy yet reassuring exploration of our interactions with others while mysteries behind each character develop. What has caused such chronic unhappiness and distance between this married couple? Why is a father so distressed and disturbed? What is preventing a man from accepting the advances of the woman he invited to his hotel room?

By the sixth iteration we discover such answers in detail and realize each character’s surprising relations to one another. Simon, the professor who is recently fascinated with the human connection – “After Me” being named after one of his monologues – helps to intertwine these narratives further. His pondering on loneliness and interaction mirrors the real life experiences of his fellow hotel guests.

It’s impossible to think of Scott Bellis in any outfit, mannerism or circumstance other than that which he is playing at the time. In every role he is utterly convincing, and in this performance it’s no different. Jennifer Lines and David Bloom match each other in portraying the emotional complexity behind their couple’s bickering. As each scene develops, Lines becomes even more electric.

This is an hour and 15 minutes worth seeking out, and worth considering long after the curtain closes.

Apres Moi and The List play at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) until Feb 1. Visit http://rubyslippers.ca for tickets and information.