By Guillaume Corbeil. Directed by Philippe Cyr. A Théatre la Seizième production. At Studio 16 on Thursday, October 19. Continues until October 28
This play is stylish and clever, and it seems to like you back. Could it be your dream date? Or is it just playing games with you?
The tension between surface image and deeper identity, between the ideal and the real, is at the heart of Unité Modèle, which begins with an invitation from a couple of good-looking realtors representing Diorama, a planned community that seems capable of anticipating every step along your path to the perfect life. Not only will moving in enable you to enjoy the exquisite interior finishes and heated rooftop pool; it also seems to promise true love and happiness.
Guillaume Corbeil’s satiric script abounds in hypotheticals, embodied in the man and woman who keep breaking out of their role as realtors to play lovers, then interrupting their romance in order to sell us something. It’s a cool concept that often pays off comedically: as the lovers are about to kiss, the pair repeatedly pause just before their lips connect to give the audience a chance to take photos. Then they announce a special VIP offer for prospective buyers.
Corbeil targets not only the commodification of experience—and could there be a better vehicle for that satire than real estate?—but the ways in which aspiration obstructs our ability to appreciate what we already have. Conjuring a hypothetical shooting star, the woman says, “You’d make a wish to live the moment you’re right in the middle of living.”
Director Philippe Cyr’s production is as sleek as a marble countertop. Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Emilie Leclerc explore multiple layers of fake sincerity, from the buoyant to the cynical, and both bring a playful physicality to their characters. Manon Veldhuis’s minimalist set is a spare canvas for Cande Andrade’s video projections and Itai Erdal’s lighting, which makes a tiny maquette on a plinth downstage glow like a sacred object.
But do you buy it? Much as I appreciated Corbeil’s concept—and this play is highly conceptual—I longed for a little more heart. As the lovers’ trajectory began to twist into less predictable territory, I grew confused about who was playing and who was being played. Maybe that confusion is part of Corbeil’s point, but it left me less than satisfied.