douceamere.jpg 

A Duet Created & Performed by
Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey with James Sugg
Directed by David Brick

Philadelphia, PA- Madame Douce-Amere began her journey in 2000 when Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey and Celine Rames, one of the show’s original directors, began collaborating on performance styles based in sign language.  Through the evolution of their work together, the intricacy of the signed word blossomed into a full vocabulary of physical gestures—not specific to deaf or hearing audiences, but a language of movement that is accessible to all.  “There is a certain physical language that all people use,” says Delpech-Ramey.  “Even something as simple as nodding to say “yes”, this is part of a complete movement vocabulary that everybody uses to communicate what words cannot—or to communicate what we don’t necessarily feel comfortable saying.”  In Madame Douce-Amere, this universal language becomes the path through which the audience travels into the world of this eccentric old woman with a penchant for bananas, yogurt, and nosing through other people’s purses!

Madame Douce-Amere is the story of an old woman haunted by the ghost of her beloved musician husband.  Award-winning musician and actor James Sugg joins Delpech-Ramey on stage, in this new production, to provide the musical spirit of the companion she’s lost.  It is precisely this loss that drives her toward the joy and intimacy she misses.  Her need for happiness spills over from the stage into the audience as Douce-Amere pokes, cajoles, and noses her way through these visitors in her home, making the audience a co-conspirator in her hi-jinks.  “She is free to behave however she chooses,” says Delpech-Ramey.  “She is eccentric and sincere and even a little rude.  This is the beauty of becoming old—you have nothing to prove.”  The ease with which Douce-Amere moves in her own skin is a quick ice-breaker for audiences.  “Most people are so guarded that it is funny to see a person behave in the ways that she does, without inhibition.  The audience comes into a very real world.  And their presence and action are necessary.  Douce-Amere is very aware of her own reality so there is no façade that the audience must help maintain.  She needs their intimacy and will nudge and coax to get it!” 

Madame Douce-Amere is a story built around the inevitability of joy.  Using the simplest of movements, miming, and sign language, Delpech-Ramey and Sugg create a multi-layered world through which performer and spectator meet on even ground for a performance unlike any other. 

Madame Douce-Amere’s first professional production took place during the month of October, 2006 at 1812 Productions in Philadelphia.  1812 Productions’ Artistic Director, Jennifer Childs, said of the show, “Madame Douce-Amere is a really unique piece.  Emmanuelle creates such a complete character who brings an atmosphere of mischief and unbounded joy into the theater.  While there is much laughter shared by audience and performer, the overall experience, however, is surprisingly intimate.  Every audience member has their own personal experience with this show, because there is a silence that allows everyone to connect to their own memories.  The work is stunning and I was so proud to have it as a part of our season.”

Cast & Crew

Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey (Co-Creator & Performer):  Emmanuelle was classically trained at the École Superieur d’Art Dramatique de la ville de Paris, and studied physical theatre at École Jacques Lecoq.  Besides her current U.S. work with Pig Iron Theatre, Emmanuelle has performed in Paris and throughout Europe in such productions as Lettres à Stalingrad.  A former member of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Emmanuelle was co-creator of and a performer in such critically acclaimed productions as Gentlemen Volunteers, Flop!, Hell Meets Henry Halfway, and James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris, for which she won a Barrymore Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.  A native of France, Emmanuelle currently lives and works in Philadelphia and was most recently seen in Voices Underwater at Gas & Electric Arts.

James Sugg (Co-Creator & Performer):  James is an actor, sound designer, composer/musician who draws from all three disciplines while doing any one of these jobs.  He is a member of Pig Iron Theatre Company and has worked with The Wilma, The Arden Theatre, Seattle Rep, Actors Theater of Louisville, Folger Theater, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, Princeton University, Freedom Theatre, UArts, and Lantern Theatre.  His work has been recognized with four Barrymores for Outstanding Sound Design and the F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Theater Artist.  Most recently, he composed country/bluegrass tunes for the Mark Twain musical A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage and has just performed his rock and roll song cycle The Sea as part of this year’s LiveArts Festival.

David Brick (Director):  David is Co-Director of Headlong Dance Theater, a collaborative, contemporary dance company based in Philadelphia.  Since 1993, headlong has created over forty dances, many of which are known for their witty take on contemporary culture.  Headlong has performed nationally and internationally with an array of work that springs from a deep commitment to collaboration, humor, and formal experimentation.  In 1999 Headlong received a Bessie (New York Dance and Performance) Award for choreography for their program, ST*R W*RS AND OTHER STORIES performed at New York’s Dance Theatre Workshop.  David teaches contact improvisation at the Parlor in Philadelphia and dance composition at Bryn Mawr College.

 

Grand Madame

Madame Douce-Amere


Published: Oct 18, 2006

 

 

An accordion, a scarf and a kiss — how much more French can you get? So at first glance you might expect a love story, something romantic and perhaps slightly sad ("douce-amère" does mean "bittersweet," after all). You would be right, but that's only part of the story. Madame Douce-Amère is romantic and sad — but also funny, surprising and a superb vehicle for the immensely talented Emanuelle Delpech-Ramey, the co-creator and principal performer.

It's easy to fall in love with Madame Douce-Amère because Madame Delpech-Ramey is irresistible. She has the kind of mobile face the French call jolie laide, and it's alive to every emotional nuance. (She looks like a younger Marian Seldes, and DR's talent is on a par.) Her physical embodiment of the character — from youth to age, in despair or joy — is absolute. Did I mention she never says a word? She doesn't need to. Madame DR is a marvelous clown and a fine actress.

It's my personal bias, but I prefer the actress part. Madame Douce-Amère soars to magnificent heights in the segments closest to narrative — the first seconds where she meets her man, courts him and loses him; also a dream sequence where the now-old Madame remembers herself young is an unforgettable, lump-in-your-throat moment.

In between, there's a bit more standard clownishness, though of a very high order. Madame DA, a rambunctious older woman, interacts with the audience — she's coquettish, a bit rude and always keeps us on our toes. The opening night attendees enjoyed themselves thoroughly, but for me this kind of semi-invasive game-playing (if you've seen Cirque du Soleil, you know what I mean) goes on too long. Delpech-Ramey's ingenuity and élan never flag — but my patience did, at least briefly.

It's a small quibble, though, amid so much wonderful, imaginative theater-making. The direction (by David Brick) and design are elegant, and like Madame DR, they make much of little. I should certainly point out also that Delpech-Ramey is not the only performer — James Sugg, who appears as the lover and accompanies the action on his accordion, is a fine actor in his own right, as well as a superlative musician. His interaction with Madame suggests countless hours of rehearsal, but in fact Sugg stepped in on rather short notice, when the original male partner was unable to come to Philadelphia. That partner, by the way, played the violin. Madame Douce-Amère needed some quick reworking.

There can't be many situations in which an accordion is an improvement on a violin, but this may be one.

(d_fox@citypaper.net)

Madame Douce-Amère

Through Oct. 29,1812 Productions, Walnut Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St., 215-592-9560,www.1812productions.org

 

With no words at all, she crafts a deeply intimate play

October 12, 2006|By Toby Zinman FOR THE INQUIRER
If ever I'm lost in a country where the language is hopelessly opaque, I hope Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey is with me. With her expressive face and body, she can tell a story, ask for help, give instructions, express joy and grief and glee and embarrassment and confusion and gratitude - all without words. It's intimacy that is the hallmark of Madame Douce-Amere, an intimacy Delpech-Ramey creates between herself and her audience - she glances over her shoulder at us to share her amazement or her pleasure - as well as the intimate love story of a man and woman. In this sad and funny play, we see them meet (she drops a scarf, he picks it up), they marry, they have a child, he dies, she grows old and lonely. His accordion case becomes his surrogate, and her life is haunted by his music and his presence.

 

Madame Douce-Amere ("bittersweet" in French) goes from a young, lithe woman to a bent, tottery woman. The transformation is uncanny, just as it is in the opposite direction when, while napping, she imagines herself young again. There are many whimsical scenes mingling wit and pathos, each separated from the next by a tiny blackout. In her eccentric old age, Mme. Douce-Amere becomes mischievous and rushes through the aisles and snatches women's purses, pets men's bald heads, asks for kisses, shares her yogurt. This audience-participation portion of the show goes on a bit too long and too repetitively, but perhaps it feels long because the opening-night crowd was not as responsive or such good sports as the Fringe audiences were in 2005, when Delpech-Ramey presented an earlier version of the show.

James Sugg provides both the husband's presence and the show's music, an elegant onstage figure who watches her with loving attentiveness; he plays an accordion that can charm ("I Could Have Danced All Night") and surprise (a world of unexpected sound effects: telephone busy signals, street traffic).

The show's sweet simplicity - no costume changes, no opulent sets (just a little wall with a curtained window that turns around, providing indoors and outdoors) - highlights just how little decoration theatrical talent needs. "Two boards and a passion," as the old definition of theater goes: Madame Douce-Amere is about the very human struggle with time and loss, and shows how much imagination and courage it takes to grow old.

Madame Douce-Amere

Created by Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey, with James Sugg. Directed by David Brick. Lighting by Sarah Jakubasz. Presented by 1812 Productions.

Cast: Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey (Madame Douce-Amere), James Sugg (her husband).

Playing at: Independence Studio on 3, Walnut Street Theatre, Ninth and Walnut Streets, through Oct. 29. Tickets: $10-$32. Information: 215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org.