Premiering in New York back in 1999, Jean-Claude Carrire’s La Terrasse crosses the Atlantic once again to our very own Center Stage Theater. Charmingly absurd, this English translation of the French play stays true to the original Gallic wit and humor.
A couple with appropriately Francophone names, Madeline (Jackie Apodaca) and Etienne (Ted Harmand), are separating. Madeline is leaving Etienne for no stated reason, except perhaps for his complete indifference toward her. While Madeline waits for her Venice-bound, Alpha Romeo-driving suitor to pick her up, Etienne actually seems bothered by her sudden departure. Before either party can clearly establish any emotional reaction, the energetic Woman from the Agency (Leslie Gangl Howe) comes to show the couple’s apartment, first to a haughty General’s Wife (Marion Jessup Freitag) and then to a ludicrous Mr. Astruc (Fred Lehto). Mr. Astruc takes the saying “make yourself at home” more than literally, as he permits himself to use the phone, cheese, wine, eggs, bed-in short, the entire apartment-but with the utmost politeness of course. What’s more, he invites his friend Maurice (Tom Hinshaw) to join him. Maurice is even more impossible than Astruc. A desperate romantic, he declares his love for Madeline, and upon her rejection, he throws himself off the apartment’s terrace, only to come back-yes, still alive-to deny she was the cause of his folly. Then there’s the General (Edward K. Romine), a blind old man, who also manages to fall off the terrace, with a little help from his wife. Yet he, too, comes back completely unharmed-the play’s grand enigma.
Ionesco-like, mildly Molire-ish, hinting toward the deux ex machine, and bordering on the existential, La Terrasse succeeds in combining a wide spectrum of theater genres and philosophies. It contains so many theories, hidden messages, and underground meanings that it would be infinitely difficult to untie the heavily knotted play. If you like to dissect a play’s every concept, consider yourself warned. Rather, La Terrasse seeks the complacent viewer who can let such thoughts simply settle, as if sitting out on a terrace letting the sun soak through.