January 21, 2020

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Childhood trauma takes centre stage

LOUIS-PHILIPPE CHIASSON PHOTO</p><p>A reunion of old friends in Cercle Molière's L’Incroyable légèreté de Luc L., from left: Pierre-Guy Blanchard, Luc LeBlanc, Christian Essiambre.</p>

LOUIS-PHILIPPE CHIASSON PHOTO

A reunion of old friends in Cercle Molière's L’Incroyable légèreté de Luc L., from left: Pierre-Guy Blanchard, Luc LeBlanc, Christian Essiambre.

Existential dread: I have it, you might have it, and the latest theatrical offering at Théâtre Cercle Molière definitely has it.

A co-production with Quebec City's Théâtre Sortie de secours and théatre L’Escaouette of Moncton, N.B., L'Incroyable légèreté de Luc L. is a stand-alone play but also the third and final part of a trilogy, with each play telling the story of a different character: the first of Christian E. (Christian Essiambre) in Les trois exiles by Christian E., the second of Pierre-Guy B. (Pierre-Guy Blanchard) in Le long voyage by Pierre-Guy B. and the third of Luc L. (Luc LeBlanc).

The three actors play three friends from New Brunswick who grew up together and became artists but made different choices that took their lives in opposite directions.

Many, if not most, stories are about leaving and returning home. The stories of Christian E. and Pierre-Guy B. follow that structure. Each left their childhood home behind in search of something better elsewhere. But in this play, Luc L. is our hero, and Luc. L. never left.

Without the drama and glamour of travel, Luc’s story is perhaps less exciting than that of his friends, but it becomes clear early on that Luc is wrestling internally with trauma caused by a childhood of violence and addiction.

Luc, who has become an actor, must come to terms with this trauma to begin healing and, presumably, to succeed in a career that demands raw sensitivity and vulnerability. Despite his supposed lightness, he wrestles with some heavy demons, and in L'Incroyable légèreté de Luc L. we’re all along for the ride, so buckle up.

The dialogue-driven play is housed within a bare-bones set illuminated by practical design by Marc Paulin. The music is provided by Luc’s pal Pierre-Guy, who mixes the sound live to wonderful effect, crafting frantic soundscapes to tonally support Luc’s cerebral journey.

The minimal tech of the show supports to the truthfulness of the dialogue. Nothing is hidden by the set or obscured by fanciful lighting choices. Everything relies on the shoulders of the three capable performers on stage, each of whom — in performing heightened versions of themselves — embody the characters in a way nobody else could.

The direction of the transitions doesn’t always work as seamlessly as it should and it can be difficult to pinpoint a trigger or meaning behind when we shift from one scenario to the next, and while a knowledge of East Coast doesn’t seem necessary to enjoy the show, my minimal knowledge had me feeling left out of some of the culturally-specific jokes.

It’s also useful to note that this play is enormously dialogue-driven, so if you prefer to go in without the help of subtitles even though your French never improved past a high school level, do yourself a favour: set aside your ego and accept the subtitle tablet. You can thank me later. They are available for Wednesday and Saturday showings, and can be reserved at 204-233-8053.

Ultimately, L'Incroyable légèreté de Luc L. is a smart play about friendship, career and the choices we make as we attempt to survive the things in childhood that cause us harm. It’s heavy stuff, but Luc L. tells his story with an incredible lightness, just as he promised.

frances.koncan@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @franceskoncan

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