Beit Lessin – Un Animal de Compagnie

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Rami Heuberger and Nati Kluger – Un Animal de Compagnie/Photo: Kfir Bolotin

In this delightfully frothy French comedy, Henri (Rami Heuberger) returns to his well-appointed home with a surprise for his wife Christine (Nati Kluger): a goldfish. It would be a lovely gesture, except for one small problem: Christine wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. What kind of husband promises his wife a pet Yorkshire and then brings home a goldfish? Just like their elegant apartment with its sleek lines and bold art, Henri and Christine’s marriage is utterly comme il faut on the surface, but after twenty years there are some long-held grudges and seething emotions beneath the calm exterior. Un Animal de Compagnie, written by Francis Veber, translated by Eli Bijaoui and directed by Alon Ophir is a lively and amusing look at marriage and relationships, human and otherwise.

Rami Heuberger is outstanding as Henri, at once the suave bourgeois Frenchman, and a rather mischievous imp. His expressions and body language are hilarious, it’s a treat to watch him.  As he sets the goldfish and its clear glass bowl down in its new home, he playfully ponders the fish, wondering about its gender and physical attributes, in comic wordplay that results in a name for the new pet: Pinion. When Christine comes home to find Henri and Pinion, she is outraged, and demands he return the fish to the pet store. Regardless of how Henri might feel about Yorkshires, it’s safe to assume Henri pulled this prank to get a rise out of Christine, and mission accomplished, the fish can go. Yet this is where the fun complications begin.

There is an unspoken hierarchy to pets, and fish are far below dogs as desired companions. They really don’t do much other than swim around in their bowl. Yet just like a therapist who sits silently on the couch, the presence of Pinion seems to elicit a stream of confessions from the various members of the household. Innocently swimming around, Pinion also offers, if not a break, then certainly a bending of the fourth wall, as when an actor is onstage alone, talking to Pinion, he or she is effectively addressing the audience.

Un Animal de Compagnie/Photo: Kfir Bolotin

Christine has her own armory of marital revenge: Jean Pierre (Dov Navon), the boyfriend of her youth. Yet when this aging biker dude shows up with his ripped jeans, even Christine gets more than she bargained for. Into this goldfish bowl comes Dounia (Yarden Raz), a young and beautiful refugee from the Caucasus. The four protagonists swimming around in circles, make for an entertaining evening, with dilemmas more humorous than portentous: is it quite the thing to eat sushi if you have a pet fish?  With the ineffable je ne sais quois of French comedy, the secrets, schemes, and desires play out in sparkling dialogue, rollicking one-liners, and a light touch of physical comedy.

Un Animal de Compagnie (A Pet)

By Francis Veber

Translated by Eli Bijaoui; Directed by Alon Ophir; Set and costumes by Orna Smorgonsky; Music: Shmulik Noifeld; Lighting Design: Reuven Wallner; Cast: Rami Heuberger – Henri, Nati Kluger – Christine, Dov Navon – Jean Pierre, Yarden Goz – Dounia.