Le Petit comedy deals with Youth’s rebellion

Another Round: Best of the Bayou II kicks off Sept. 28
August 30, 2013
Long-awaited children’s museum opens this month
August 30, 2013
Another Round: Best of the Bayou II kicks off Sept. 28
August 30, 2013
Long-awaited children’s museum opens this month
August 30, 2013

“Halfway Up the Tree” is very much about what’s beneath the surface.

Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne’s September production poses questions about the contradiction between behavioral facades and true desires. It does so while pushing the story of a military general whose reaction to his dysfunctional family upon his return from war takes him to new heights.

“It’s a funny play, but there’s a lot of truth to it,” said Edwina Yakupzack, the production’s director.

General Sir Mallalieu Fitzbuttress returns from Malaysia to find his son Robert having been expelled from Oxford to become a full-time hippie and his pregnant daughter unable to pinpoint her mare. So Fitzbuttress climbs a tree, choosing to make nature his home in an attempt to understand his children. Considering his pedigree, the general’s decision to live the ways of his offspring runs against his archetype, befuddling and frustrating the family.

Robert was motivated to revolt by the realities of the Vietnam War, said Scott Courville, the actor filling that role. He wants the rebellion to be acknowledged, wants to spark debate.

“When his father comes home from Malaysia, Robert wants that reaction, he wants to get a rise out of his dad, but his dad is not giving him the reaction that he expected, being they were brought up ‘proper,’” Courville said. “It drives Robert crazy. I think the character gets frustrated because he’s not getting the reaction he wanted.”

Abbie Lapeyrouse, who plays the daughter, Judy, said her character’s pregnancy was brought on by a disregard for the consequences.

“She’s a young girl who is very free spirited,” said Lapeyrouse, a nurse acting in her first production. “She doesn’t really know what she wants in life, she just kind of went with it, got herself in a bind, but she doesn’t care. I think someone said earlier that it’s very modern-day like, and that’s exactly what it is: There are a lot of girls out there who don’t think of the consequences before they do things, and whoops.”

Michael Sevante plays the general. He said his ascent up the tree isn’t a psychological ploy to manipulate his family, but a genuine reaction to an evolving attitude toward life.

“They convince him that they have the right philosophy of life and that he’s been wrong all these years,” Sevante said. “He doesn’t join them, he sets off on his own and actually achieves what I see as a higher plane of hippie-dom.”

The play premiered in 1967. Peter Ustinov, born in London to Russian parents, wrote the script. Ustinov was also an actor, filmmaker, theater and opera director and chancellor of Durham University, which named its graduate society Ustinov College.

The second show in Le Petit’s 2013-14 season, “Halfway Up the Tree” leverages the general’s unique foray into a cultural study, of sorts.

It’s exemplified when the general and his wife, Lady Fitzbuttress, acknowledge they allowed their children to peer behind their veil via daily, bitter conversations, an education by accident. It raises questions of whether developing minds can take morsels of authenticity, become repulsed with the insincerity of reality and sprint in the opposite direction.

Yakupzack was in her 30s during President Lyndon Johnson’s six years in the White House, when the American public discovered a clearer picture of the Vietnam conflict and began articulating their dissent.

Yakupzack sympathizes with the attitude, popularly ascribed to the period when she was a young adult, and desires for unencumbered living. But she also said there is a balance that needs to be struck, a need to maintain human decency and politeness when eschewing the “façade of everything.”

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water; I think they did,” she said, labeling “they” as rebellious youth not only from the ‘60s until now, but as far back as the ‘20s. “Nobody ever says ‘Thank you,’ or ‘please’ or takes a hat off in a restaurant or anything like that anymore. I think we could have kept a little bit of the niceties.”

Respect doesn’t mean servitude, she reasoned. In this regard, it’s important to examine the causes, joys and tenors of defiance.

“Halfway Up the Tree” also addresses incompatibility among family members and between lovers and the natural, if repressed, yearning it provokes.

“Never, from our wedding day, did I understand his explanations,” Lady Fitzbuttress says of her husband. “It was your duty to understand him,” responds Helga, a free-spirited houseguest played by Ann Duplantis.

Lady Fitzbuttress plays a large role in the play (“This is the most liiiiines that I’ve ever had in my whole-legged life,” the actor Lydia Courtney-Voigt said.). While trying to solve her family’s problems and reacting to her husband’s new direction, she’s being wooed by an extramarital lover (played by Mike Brossette).

“She is every mother,” Courtney-Voigt said of Lady Fitzbuttress. “I think every mother goes through these feelings of seeing their children grow, then leaving the nest and all of their problems they have with them and they come back with, trying to solve everybody’s problems but still loving your children.”

While trying to maintain happiness for everyone else, though, Lady Fitzbuttress is looking for some fun of her own.

“She’s a hot momma. She’s got some needs that really need to be fulfilled. Just wait until she’s unleashed.”

The play runs from Sept. 12-22 at Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne, 7829 Main St., Houma. Admission is $15. For more information, call 9985) 876-4278 or visit www.houmalittletheatre.com.

Robert (Scott Courville) and Helga (Ann Duplantis) lock lips in a moment of pre-marital philandering while Lady Fitzbuttress (Lydia Courtney-Voigt) eyes her son and his fling with contempt. “Halfway Up The Tree” opens Sept. 12 at Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne.