‘Nemesis’ Review: A Philip Roth Adaptation Resonates

To drive this point home, while the rest of the show is based on the French translation of “Nemesis,” by Marie-Claire Pasquier, the songs — credited to Guillaume Bachelé — are all in English. It’s an understandable choice, even though some of the performers aren’t fully equipped to handle them. (Additionally, like all Odéon productions, “Nemesis” is presented with English subtitles on Fridays. Unfortunately, the only screen is right above the edge of the stage, all but invisible from the first few rows.)

In the role of the younger Bucky, Alexandre Gonin finds a sense of awkward seriousness that never tips over into dullness. A narrator speaks in voice-over throughout, and early on, it’s easy to assume it’s Bucky; as in Roth’s novel, however, we later learn that the narrator is Arnie, one of the children from the Newark playground who contracted polio. Onstage, Arnie (Maxime Dambrin), is revealed to have been narrating behind the scenes from the beginning.

The final section, which is also the shortest, brings the adult Arnie together with a much older Bucky. Both characters suffer from the aftereffects of polio, yet they face off with entirely different perspectives on what happened. Bucky is consumed by lifelong guilt over the role he may have played in spreading polio, while Arnie argues for a life well lived and not limited by disability.

As Bucky, the bilingual American actor Stuart Seide is brilliantly cantankerous, and Dambrin, who has a form of neuropathy that affects his ability to walk, makes a heartfelt match for him. “Chance is everything,” Dambrin pleads.

At this point, it feels as if we’ve lived a life with these characters and their contradictions. It’s a feat Roth often managed on the page. For Raffier to match it onstage is a career-launching achievement.


Through April 21, at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe (Ateliers Berthier) in Paris; theatre-odeon.eu.

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