Liza Paul and Bahia Watson's two-woman show combines wordplay and another kind of play in a West Indian girl's world.
First, a lesson in vernacular: technically, yes, “pomme” is the French translation of the tree-born fruit well-suited for pies, cider, and bobbing—the apple. But its heterograph “pum,” short for “pum pum,” has quite an alternative meaning. Among West Indian cultures, like Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, “pum” means a lady’s hoo-ha.
Knowing this key bit of information puts one in a very different mindset walking into pomme is french for apple, which closes tomorrow at The Tranzac. Born out of the creative minds of Liza Paul (associate producer at Soulpepper Theatre) and Bahia Watson (A Raisin in the Sun, The Penelopiad), it premiered last August with a sold-out run at Cinecycle as a “fresh, funny, and irreverent look at womanhood in all its glory: its perils, its pleasures, and all kinda madness in between.”
In its current remount, pomme could be described as a combination of Even Ensler’s seminal ’90s work The Vagina Monologues, and modern-day Toronto. Though Watson and Paul frequently channel the often-muffled (and in the opening sketch, very muffled) voices of their lady parts through the clever use of pink infinity scarves, they tackle many more topics about what it means to be an ethnic woman, or any woman, in 2012.
Throughout the show, we see scenes about everything from dating to picking up at the clubs to the flickering spark in a marriage to gay and lesbian experiences to elderly sexual life. And, like real life romance and sex, the scenes are sometimes absurdly comical (is it a dealbreaker if a woman farts on a date?), sadly funny (when a young girl asks her mother to go on her first date), and through several understated monologues directly to the audience, quietly high-impact.
Paul and Watson’s chemistry leaves us with the impression that the show stems from conversations and experiences they had long before the idea of pomme popped into their heads—and while the show has a distinct West Indian vibe and sound, and resonates quite strongly with the mostly female audience (not all-female though), the issues and sentiments are universal at their core. As women in their seats added an “Amen!” to the theatrics, pomme turned from a feminist play into an over-the-top, ridiculous, collective “WTF?!” to modern dating and ideas of femininity.
Also worthy of mention was the opening act, Suzanne Roberts Smith and Sophia Walker in their bouffon scene Oreo & J Ro Ro’s CONQUEST OF TRUE LOVE. Through their grotesque embodiments of women on the prowl for a man and their gaudy makeup emphasizing their freakishness, the scene properly set the tone for the comedic criticism to follow.
Just because Valentine’s Day is over, it doesn’t mean that ladies should stop celebrating the ludicrousness of modern relationships. pomme is french for apple is a laugh that should be shared.