By Stephan Cloutier. Directed by Joí«l Beddows. A coproduction of Théí¢tre la Seizií¨me, Théí¢tre la Catapulte (Ottawa), and Théí¢tre franí§ais de Toronto. At Studio 16 on Wednesday, March 21. Remaining performances until March 31
B.C. writer Stephan Cloutier's French-language play Apocalypse í Kamloops is a romp yoking together black comedy, psychological drama, social satire, Greek tragedy–and a touch of burlesque. That's an audacious undertaking, and for all its verve the play doesn't quite pull it off.
Twenty-five hours before a comet is due to crash into Earth and obliterate all life, Vancouver translator Jocelyn Théroux (Pierre Simpson) receives a visit from a celestial being. Part muse and part angel, Stérope (Patricia Marceau) has been given orders from above to help him fix his karma quickly. Jocelyn, a frustrated guy wallowing in negativity, needs to drive to Kamloops to reconcile with his estranged father and sister.
The Thérouxs are a dysfunctional family. Bernard (Guy Mignault) is a loving parent, a mild-mannered man with well-concealed emotions and a chaotic home; his daughter, Mireille (Annie Lefebvre), is a confused, pot-smoking punkette who, at age 30, remains a choleric teenager. Jocelyn's arrival and the looming apocalypse force them all to confront painful memories and traumas. Usual patterns of behaviour fall away, as long-repressed urges and feelings bubble to the surface.
The freewheeling rush of language and the production's edgy flair are seductive. Cloutier contrasts the elegant Parisian airs and speech of the martini-sipping Stérope–who changes into a series of stylish outfits, from Grecian robes to a '60s miniskirt and high boots–with the earthy French-Canadian expressions of her naive and frumpish assistant, Nathalie (Lyne Barnabé), and the potty-mouthed Théroux siblings. Glen Charles Landry's busy set imaginatively melds auto junkyard and living room, and Joí«l Beddows directs the fine cast through the many scenes, entrances, and exits with a zippy sense of timing and pace.
There are some loose ends in the fabric of the play, however. It's not clear why a figure as tawdry as Jocelyn should be singled out for such special treatment by the gods. More importantly, while Nathalie, a newly deceased mortal, can be seen by all the Thérouxs and interacts with them, Stérope remains invisible to father and daughter. For too much of the time she stands silently apart, observing the goings-on or consulting Jocelyn's file, and by the dark denouement she's become superfluous. That's a pity, because, interpreted with aristocratic archness by Marceau, Stérope is a source of much of the play's wit and classical resonance. By bringing her fully into the action, Apocalypse í Kamloops would have integrated the varied stylistic elements better and added to the play's wild spirit.