The one thing you should see this week: 50 of the city’s leading ladies on one stage

The one thing you should see this week: 50 of the city’s leading ladies on one stage

(Image: Michael Cooper) 

This week’s pick: Tout Comme Elle

Most plays can usually only scrounge together one or two headliners for the marquee, but Tout Comme Elle (Just Like Her) is bold enough to demand 50. Five years ago, Louise Dupré’s play opened in Montreal under the direction of the National Arts Centre’s Brigitte Haentjens. Featuring an all-female cast ranging in age from 26 to 90, the show’s poignant look at the tender and often thorny relationships between mothers and daughters quickly made it a French-language hit.

An English rendition of Dupré’s text (translated by poet Erín Moure) presented by Necessary Angel opens today as part of Luminato, and fortunately, none of the texture is lost in translation. The play opens on a bare stage crowded with shoes. Slowly and silently, 50 of Toronto’s finest female actors—including powerhouses Maggie Huculak, Kristen Thomson, Rosemary Dunsmore, Liisa Repo-Martell and Fiona Reid—glide onto the floor, then charge the stage like a stampede and cry out, in unison, “Mama!”

The actors operate as one gargantuan body of voice and movement, but each has moments to express her own personal, slightly idiosyncratic take on the sticky dynamic between daughters and mothers in monologue. Still, the play—perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a chorale—is an exercise in scope, as the enormous ensemble sings, scoots, dances and writhes through an explosive, collective catharsis. It’s a work of significant emotion, but also of great precision and generosity between actors. Tout Comme Elle’s naked earnestness might garner an eye-roll from the cynical, but the sheer spectacle of the staging and the rare opportunity to see Toronto’s top female talent collaborate is certainly worth the trip.

The details: June 14 to 18. $55.50–$95.50. Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E., 416-368-4849,