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Gentle Sexual Politics

THEATER: REVIEW

By John BeaufortSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / July 3, 1989



NEW YORK

THE PASSION OF NARCISSE MONDOUX Comedy by Gratien G'elinas. (English version by Linda Garboriau and Mr. G'elinas.) Directed by Peter Moss. Starring Huguette Oligny and Mr. G'elinas. At the Apple Corps Theatre, 336 W. 20th St. TWO distinguished Canadian theatrical figures are beguiling New Yorkers in a gentle comedy about love, feminism, and village politics `a la Quebec.

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Veteran actor-playwright-broadcaster Gratien G'elinas calls his comically progressive conversation piece ``The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux.'' With Mr. G'elinas and his wife, Huguette Oligny, as the romantic conversationalists, it makes for a very pleasant evening.

Widower Narcisse and newly widowed Laurentienne Robichaud meet at the funeral of Laurentienne's husband. A self-described ``master plumber,'' Narcisse is soon expressing concern about the gurgle in Mme. Robichaud's sink - a malfunction he promises to repair on his return from a Florida vacation. Narcisse is determined to realize his long-cherished passion for Laurentienne.

Learning as they renew acquaintances that Laurentienne's one great regret was her husband's failure to become mayor of Saint-Esprit-En-Bas, Narcisse decides to run for the office and thereby enhance his chances with the lady. To the surprise of the ardent plumber, Laurentienne announces that she has taken out nomination papers and plans to be a candidate herself. Thereafter, playwright G'elinas offers actor G'elinas the opportunity to trace Narcisse's transformation from unselfconscious chauvinist to committed feminist - at least in Laurentienne's cause.

The dialogues are nicely crafted to explore the nuances and ramifications of this provincial game of love, politics, and role discovery. Mr. G'elinas presents Narcisse as a well-meaning naif who can argue his own case and then gradually concede point after point to the sage Laurentienne. He comes at last to realize that admiration is quite as important as desire in a man's attitude to the woman of his dreams. The engaging Miss Oligny responds with the portrait of a woman whose charm and elegance are matched by her intelligence, a fact Laurentienne demonstrates with her encyclopedic knowledge of the municipal code.

When asked if he has read it, Narcisse replies sheepishly: ``No - not personally.''

The smooth production directed by Peter Moss has been attractively served by designers Michael Egan (sets), Fran,cois Barbeau (costumes), and Susan Chute (lighting). The production, scheduled to run at least through July 9, plays in French on Tuesdays, and in English Wednesdays through Sundays.