Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: (Toronto)

Pier Paquette (photo: Mikael Lavogiez)

Democracy is coming to the USA
by Shannon Christy

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
James Madison, Political Observations, Apr. 20, 1795 in: Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 4, p. 491 (1865) is a play about Canadians and the erosion of their culture on an individual and macro level with the major historical dramas and characters of the United States from the last 50 years as a background.  It is a brilliant play that demands to be seen.

Writer and Co-director Claude Guilmain is ruthless in his portrayal of the hollow modern Canadian society.  

This is an awesome premise made all the stronger for its proposition that America is a country dedicated to war as a method for sustaining (empty) lifestyles. 

All of Mr. Guilmain’s characters have the fatal flaw of still being alive in a world that is dead of emotions, dead of human connections, dead from the world, and dead from each other. Whether it be an associate professor, Brigitte (Anne-Sophie Quemener), who resorts to fucking her students to get them to learn the fundamentals of American History or a dad, Claude (Bernard Meney), whose only communication with his daughters is via text messages; there is a central theme and it is that the world America has provided Canada with is dead.  Mr. Meney provides a strong performance while taking us through the demise of his career as a bureaucrat.  His frustration, ability to take on multiple roles, and theatrics are sketched into my mind.  

This is an awesome premise made all the stronger for its proposition that America is a country dedicated to war as a method for sustaining (empty) lifestyles. 

The set design of Aurélien Muller consists of a few scattered chairs, a blanket, and turning walls.  The visual effects of Duncan Appleton are haunting.  On one hand we have an image of John F. Kennedy during his inauguration then the wall opens to expose five souls as if they were exhumed from the grave to tell us that they are from the present and their lives, so similar to ours, are empty.  Therefore, when the soldier Émilie (Genevieve Dufour) decides to go back to the frontline it is to find a place in the world that is real and even if the price is killing the innocent, as she finds out, it is a price she is willing to pay to get away from the artificial life she calls Canada. 

It is too bad that the play loses the thread and goes for the sentimental chords with its examination of the war in Afghanistan, relying way too heavily on the usual war clichés, losing the tightness and banality of its scathing critique of everyday life in North America.

I also missed something in the play: there is this alluded connection to the assassination of JFK that is not fully developed.  The connection is mentioned at the beginning of the piece and the path is set but it goes nowhere. Its realization must be available in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of this Canadian tragedy...
This small frustration pales compared to the raw fury presented through the banality of our lives to the backdrop of Americans continuously making the case for war. 

This play runs while at the same time the single largest story of our generation, the U.S. is spying on all of us all the time is unfolding.

If you are mad as hell and frustrated with the current condition of the U.S. hegemony, the complete capitulation of Canadian identity to that hegemony, or just frustrated with your job then you should go see this play and find out you are not alone. runs to June 22

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