Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: (Montreal) Chaque jour

l-r Marie Tifo, Vincent-Guillaume Otis,
Anne-Élisabeth Bossé
(Photo credit: Suzanne O'Neill)

One less character, and you might have had brilliance
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I always liked what was shown at La Licorne. I just never liked La Licorne. When you went into the bar/theatre, back when, you almost felt like you had to duck as the ceiling was so low and during shows the lighting system was searingly obvious. It took great plays and great actors to make you forget the space and, for the most part, La Licorne had those. Now, in a their shiny-as-a-new-penny house you gotcher welcoming bar and atrium, generous main and studio spaces, and even a second floor terrace. You get to just enjoy the play now instead of fearing actors will brain themselves on a stage-light.

Now, what about this play: Fanny Britt's Chaque jour? 

Her dialogue for the central couple of the bang on.

Britt (or her director Denis Bernard) start the evening badly: with a sound and light show that involves lightening, a weeping woman, echoed voices and a man suspended in air. When, subsequently, we come back to earth (so to speak) the play becomes as real as real can be and from then on anytime the piece goes into effects-mode (to make what point, I am not sure) you resent that she doesn't stay with the enigmatic purity of her story. Her dialogue for the central couple of the tale, Joe and Lucie (played magnificently by Anne-Élisabeth Bossé and Vincent-Guillaume Otis) is bang on. Here is a couple which is not just working class but also profoundly stupid. They natter in half-sentences, use semi-metaphors, and play-fight (with real pain, though) to cover the fact they can't really express themselves at all. (Except when they're having sex - we understand they are quite good at that). 

Lucie is taking care of a cat for a rich woman who lives in a blandly elegant apartment. The woman is such a cypher that every surface is bedecked with the same photo of her. Placing this cat-sitter and her boyfriend in this space is a theatrical coup. Because...

Disconnection is what the play is all about and that theme of disconnection continues when Joe brags about stealing an iPod from a homo in the subway. And that is when the set, a true masterpiece by Olivier Landreville, takes on all its sense because with fluorescent lighting the elegant pad turns into the subway - the place where the drama of the evening began. The iPod is no ordinary iPod - it is Joe's sin, it is Joe's transformation - his Wagnerian transfiguration if you will. He literally rises into the air after hearing a piece of "music" on it and goes into a Senta-esque fugue state.

Now here's the problem, and it's not a quibble. Britt insists on adding a character to this mix - the apartment's owner, Carole, who really is as much of a cypher as the home suggests. Moreover, the character is played by Marie Tifo who used to be one of our great actors but who is now, sadly, better known for being the wife of ex-Parti-Québécois big-wig and sovereignist windbag/zealot, Pierre Curzi. So what you have is a character who is utterly unnecessary to the drama, played by someone who draws attention to that fact. When you feel that the play is starting to flag in the final 30 minutes of its 90 it is simply that you are tired from the times the flow has been interrupted by Tifo. 

But, remove that (rather large) error and you have a work that is compelling served up by a director who not only makes his actors work like Trojans but who accepts that the audience will as well. And the audience tonight, myself included, were awfully glad to knuckle down and, better yet, to carry the job home with us.

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