The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi (PushFestival, Jan. 22, 2014)

Théâtre la Seizième, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs are proud to present The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi by award-winning author Larry Tremblay. Produced by Théâtre Pàp (Montreal), this French show written with English words will be presented at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre) from January 22 to 25, 2014.

Thanks to a friend’s generous offer on Facebook, I was able to see this play on Wednesday night. The play has so many levels of subtlety and complexity that I’m sure it would take several viewings, plus a careful reading of the script, to get close to grasping the essence of this play.

The set is striking and spare, with five men in separate wooden “cells”, without the ability to see each other (except in the rare instances where one runs from one cell to the other). The five men speak as fragmented aspects of the shattered psyche of Gaston Talbot. On Twitter, Théâtre la Seizième (@Seizieme) said that each man has a speaker and microphone to keep in contact with the other men. That helps to explain the amazing synchronization, which was very skillfully done. The fragmented narrator is unreliable, perhaps a liar or perhaps just too traumatized to explain properly, some violent childhood events.

The play was written in 1995 on the eve of the second Quebec independence referendum. Now and then, I felt I might have grasped bits of metaphor and allegory about the situation of Quebec within Canada, but to know for sure would require another viewing. This play is done in English, but the diction and syntax are that of a francophone. The trauma Gaston has experienced is somehow related to his decision to speak in English.

Psychological horror and suspense are very difficult to do in theatre, but with the excellent acting of these men, aided by sound and lighting, the horror was very well-conveyed.

An experimental, surreal play requires a highly sophisticated production in order for it to work, and luckily for us, the audience, we had that in this production of The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi.

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