Fans of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas will enjoy Gertrude and Alice, a play whose script has just been published by Playwrights Canada Press. The play features the couple breaking the fourth wall and regaling the audience with their love story.
The dialogue is fantastic. Chatterton, Parry and Randoja have integrated text written by the real Gertrude and Alice (indicated in italics in the script) into the speeches, and somehow make it all sound natural, so that if I didn’t see the italics in the script, I wouldn’t be able to tell which parts were quotes.
The love, affection and attraction between the women also comes through very clearly in the text. There’s a moment where reading a poem together leads to an orgasm, and even a simple dialogue about lunch sounds very sensual:
Alice what’s for lunch?
A flan of mushrooms a la creme.
A flan of mushrooms a la creme. A flan of mushrooms a la creme… a flan of mushrooms a la creme… a flan of mushrooms a la creme… hearts of artichokes?
Butter. Everything smothered in butter.
Potatoes smothered in butter. Bread smothered in butter. Omelet in an overcoat. [p. 32]
Chatterton, Parry and Randoja have a wonderful ear for language, and even with just seeing the words on the page, I can imagine it coming to life onstage.
The play also gives us a nice glimpse into the lives they led, which all feels somewhat glamorous, and features literary friends like Ernest Hemingway.
The book also includes a beautiful ‘blue cahier’, which details some highlights of the lives and careers of Gertrude and Alice. The characters refer to it throughout as “the program,” and copies are intended to be handed out to audience members at every performance. The reproduction in the published version is beautiful, with glossy pages, black and white photographs and colour decorations (e.g. tape holding the photos to the page). It also includes commentary in two different handwritings, a visual extension of Gertrude and Alice’s conversation.
And if you want to see the play performed, Buddies in Bad Times is putting on a production from September 15 – October 7, 2018. Details and tickets online.
Thank you to Playwrights Canada Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.