Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: (Toronto) le fa le do

(photo by Marc Lemyre)
Weird Science
by Shannon Christy

The notion of eternal youth must have intrigued man from the moment we crawled out of our primordial goo and set foot/fin on the surface and looked down to see in a reflection that we had some lines. The quest for eternal youth has been something civilization has been searching since the Pyramids to the modern notion of the Singularity. Le fa le do is the Théâtre français de Toronto’s attempt to throw their hat in the ring to come up with an entertaining if improbable answer to this age-old mystery. 

Le fa le do is the story of six people from divergent points of Torontonian society that have their lives tied together, whether intentionally or not, by a quest to stop ageing. To say that their lives are divergent is a bit of an understatement. For example one man is a disgruntled government archivist forced by bureaucrats to reduce a given inventory by 90% while another is a former Bay Street trader who has handed in a suit for a couple of spurs and a cowboy hat and became an urban cowboy.

Director Mathieu Charette has done a terrific job in producing a funny, accessible story that never takes itself too seriously yet consistently provides the audience with open laughter and probing truths. The open laughter can come through the affections poured onto a human heart suspended in gel that has suddenly, through the aid of science, started to regenerate itself. The probing truths come unexpectedly through the songs. For instance, in one song a businesswoman (Sasha Dominique) tells exactly what she is willing to do, including lie, cheat, and steal, in order to make money. It does not seem too much of a stretch from real life but given the levity of the show, the sad reality of her lyrics can escape your attention. Mr. Charette's strength is that he does not spoon-feed his audience; the work continually unwinds instead and you are forced, with a smile, to figure out exactly what is going on.

However, what sets this work apart from a number of other shows that opened this past week is that it is an original musical production set in Toronto and it is the music, every song and melody, that will keep your attention from the opening moment to the close. This is a compliment to composer and soundscape designer Claude Naubert who successfully created themes to welcome the audience to their evening’s entertainment as well as songs for each of the six characters. Some songs remind you of Jeff Blake’s War of the Worlds, others would be fitting for Merle Haggard, and still others would be perfect for Annie Lennox.  Mr. Naubert has an incredible talent for harmony and melody and it is the sincere hope of this reviewer to see his works in many other productions. 

The set, by Melanie McNeill was a clever use of the limited space afforded to her. On either side of the stage was a performance stand in the form of a shower curtain and directly in between was a large pole surrounded by movable shelves each adorned with one character's tools of their respective trade.  Equally imaginative was the opening costumes by Nina Okens. These costumes seemed to be a fusion of Devo and Kraftworks and are human bodies with the head of a machine. [ED: See photo]

The performers were captivating each in their own way.  For instance Raymond Accolas who plays Albert the Archivist is a compelling actor with an outstanding bass voice. Whereas Andrée Rainville is a multitalented busker who provides some hilarious sound effects to introduce the Cowboy Jean-Daniel, played by Erick Fournier. Geneviève Dufour’s voice as Alice is arresting when she sings fado and her imitation of La Bolduc (an icon of Quebec folk-singing) is just hilarious.

Yes, the story has weak spots and at the end you have the feeling that this is a bit of a sophomoric literature attempt to get the job done and hand in your assignment. Yet these are minor points from an overall great, imaginative production boasting incredibly talented actors. Congrats to the TfT for producing a show bursting with creativity, concerning our contemporaries, and providing an audience with some great entertainment.  

If laughter is the true cure for ageing then the TfT has come up with a treatment to take you back to your youth.  If you are willing and wanting to grab back a few years then you know where to find it but you only have until November 2 to do so. 

la da le do runs to November 2

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