by Paula Citron
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière (translated by Morwyn Brebner)
Directed by Jennifer Tarver
Starring Raoul Bhaneja
At Tarragon Extra Space until Dec. 7
Bashir Lazhar is a very unsettling play because it turns ethical behaviour on its ear. Morwyn Brebner has translated Evelyne de la Chenelière’s original French script with charm and wit to devastating effect.
Bashir is an Algerian immigrant in Montreal who becomes a substitute teacher for a Grade 6 class who have witnessed a trauma involving their teacher. The fine line between Bashir’s interior and exterior monologues, as well as the skilful flashbacks to his life constitute the play’s fascination. Does Bashir connect with the students for the right or the wrong reasons, and should he lose his job? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg of the play’s many tantalizing layers.
Director Jennifer Tarver has captured the right amount of tension, humour, and yes, philosophy, while Raoul Bhaneja gives the performance of a lifetime.
Bashir Lazhar runs at Tarragon Extra Space until Dec. 7, and at Toronto French Theatre starring Denis Gravereaux, Nov. 26 to 30.