A new Theatre Sarnia production opening this week navigates a difficult topic with laughter and tears.
Strangers Among Us offers a bittersweet look at the lives of people impacted by Alzheimer disease, says director Norm Francoeur.
Written by Canadian playwright Aaron Bushkowsky, the story follows Gabrielle and Michael who, after a chance introduction at a bus stop, wind up at the same long-term care facility for Alzheimer’s patients.
“We get to see the journey of their two separate families through their eyes, and the family’s eyes, as different coping mechanisms with the disease,” Francoeur said.
The humorous moments and sad situations all come from living with Alzheimer’s.
“We’ll take you through every emotion that we can throughout the show,” he said. “There are scenes that I have difficulty watching… after two months of watching it and two years of living with the script.”
Francoeur is no stranger to the play, having acted in it with wife Ruth Francoeur about 15 years ago. This time around Ruth plays the lead, Gabrielle.
“It’s also the only time where she has to listen to me,” the director said with a laugh.
Ruth Francoeur, who has performed with her husband for 30 years, said capturing a character slowly succumbing to dementia has been her hardest role yet.
“It’s definitely more involved,” she said. “There’s been a lot of rehearsals where there’s been a lot of tears.”
A team of about 20 cast and crew underwent a session with an Alzheimer’s Society of Canada educator at rehearsals last fall.
“These are human beings, they’re not caricatures,” Ruth Francoeur said. “You want to pay the proper respect to it so that people understand that.”
Her husband said he hopes the play, performed on a simple stage with minimal sets, leads to family conversations about the disease, and how they would cope if ever affected.
Ruth Francoeur said all 10 performers in the two-act production have valuable, unique roles.
“Everybody has their moment to shine.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Theatre Sarnia presents: Strangers Among Us
WHEN: Feb. 2 – 10 (for showtimes visit www.imperialtheatre.net)
WHERE: Imperial Theatre, 168 Christina Street N.
TICKETS: Adults $25, seniors $22, youth $12.50, young adult: $15.