Penniless, friendless, jobless, middle-aged Mathias sells all he owns and flies to Paris in the hopes of making a profit off an apartment that he has inherited from his estranged father. His plans are thwarted on the doorstep when he discovers that he not only inherited the apartment but also its longtime tenants. The apartment is occupied by Mathilde, age 92, and her middle-aged daughter. Mathilde remains in the apartment through en viager. She “sold” Mathias’s father the apartment, but she lives in her home and receives consistent payment for the property from the buyer. When she dies, the property belongs to the purchaser (Mathias’s dad, or in this case, Mathias). This is a good investment for the purchaser—if the seller doesn’t live very long.
My Old Lady by Israel Horovitz (which was also made into a movie), now on stage at Epilogue Players, is about family and love. Sometimes, those two are mutually exclusive, and sometimes they are very complicated.
Gary Stewart as Mathias, Robina Zink as Mathilde, and Veronique DuPrey as Chloe are a trio of clashing personalities that now live together as roommates. Mathias is an alcoholic, being flippant and unmotivated about his own craptastic life. Chloe, Mathilde’s daughter, is acerbic in the way most Americans perceive the French to be. Mathilde is a bit of a mystery. She can cut to the core of an issue, but she also allows Mathias to stay with her. While Mathias’s motivations are always on the table, Mathilde and Chloe have layers that need to be examined cautiously.
Under Ed Mobley’s direction, the cast performs scenes of engaging repartee. DuPrey conveys the coiled energy of a cornered cat that is ready to unsheathe its claws at any moment. The Montreal, Quebec, native also gets to inject the show with some passionately French dialogue. Stewart exhibits genial pessimism at every chance. I only wish these two had more chemistry between them; their relationship is unanticipated, creating a chink in suspension of disbelief. Zink carries the grace of a blunt grandmother—you love her, but what she has to say can be exasperating. Some opening-night flubs can be forgiven, as with additional runs of the show, I am sure these will be tightened up.
While the play isn’t grand and groundbreaking, think of it as a mental amuse-bouche for the weekend.