Lucy Lost Her Heart
March 14 – 17th, 2012
Theater Junction Grand
I love writing theatre reviews. At best, I get to extol the virtues of exciting performances and thought-provoking productions while hopefully encouraging others to partake in the experience. Even when a night in the theatre is truly awful, writing a review is a kind of catharsis that provides space for me to call out the offenders and give audiences a heads up on what they may not wish to see. Then there are those productions that fall neither within the good or bad category, but in the alternate realm of the dreaded uninteresting. This is when writing theatre reviews is a real drag. Instead of being able to leave the theatre and forget the production that played out like cardboard, I am forced to revisit all the play’s sawdust memories and try to work up the creative juices to care enough to think and write about it.
But just as the show must go on, so must the reviewing and so it is with this mantra that I give you my take on Theatre Junction’s Lucy Lost Her Heart.
The play, which is the brainchild of Theatre Junction’s founder and artistic director Mark Lawes, originally premiered in Calgary last year and has now been remounted in advance of its invitation to play in Montreal. Rather than regurgitate the original production, Lawes and his ensemble troupe have apparently updated the music, movement and text that are all equally crucial parts of this mash-up performance. Having not seen the original production, I can’t comment on whether these changes are an improvement from the first iteration. I can however put forth the certainty that this clichéd, trope-filled, non sequitur loving play is the opposite of what a thrilling night in the theatre should be.
The story addresses the town of Lucy, which because of a storm or gasses or mysterious rays (it’s not clear which) has moved into the subterranean mine beneath their city. Trapped now in this alternate world, the inhabitants are forced to come to grips with their new reality and who they are in this new place. An interesting premise to be sure, but the story quickly falls apart thanks to some lazy writing, underwhelming acting and silly, intrusive multimedia effects.
In fact the entire premise of the play is quickly negated when Lost Soldier, played by an amateurish Ian Lilburn, returns from ‘the war’ to Lucy to in order to reunite with his former lover Rebecca or Pocahontas as she is now known. Wait a second…..aren’t they supposed to be trapped in the mine? Isn’t that the point of the story? How did Lost Soldier get down there? Whatever, let’s move on.
Pocahontas was pregnant when Lost Soldier left, so naturally he believes the teenager named Pierre she lovingly dotes on is his son. Not so, says she. Instead we learn that Pierre is just some kid who came down into the mine, was hit on the head with a bunch of falling rocks and is now the mentally challenged perpetual child that makes the inhabitants of Lucy appreciate life more. Not only does this ring of the worst kind of after-school special writing, but Pierre played by Stephen P. Turner’s acting is neither childlike or ‘special’. Instead, Turner lumbers around the stage spitting out lines that dull even before the sentences are finished.
The play continues on in both French and English (with projected subtitles for both languages continually) as each character drones on and on about life before underground Lucy mixed with verbal diarrhea monologues that do nothing to move the story forward in any interesting direction. Interspersed with the narrative are movement and musical interludes that manage to be as lackluster as the dialogue itself.
The one bright spot in Lucy Lost Her Heart is the story arc of Red, played by Isabelle Kirouac, who we learn died in the mine of a suspected unsolved murder. Kirouac, a movement artist, finally uses her ability in direct service of the story as she re-enacts her death and delivers some beautifully written lines choreographed with elegant subtlety. Unfortunately this jewel is buried so deeply under numerous other achingly lifeless scenes that if I hadn’t been forcing myself to look back on the production, I would have easily forgotten it.
What isn’t forgettable or forgivable is the way in which film and video were used in this performance. Suspended over one side of the stage was a scrimmed house, representing the above ground, now defunct town of Lucy, on which images were projected throughout the play. Live feed of the actors themselves on the stage with the occasional projection of a black and white video comprised the offerings. Not only were the images tedious but they smacked of pandering as if somehow the story would be made more compelling by giving the audience a video to look at.
On some level I applaud Lawes and his troupe for taking a risk with this production. But as the weak smattering of applause rang at the close of the play, Lucy may have lost her heart in the end, but I had lost my interest long before.
For the guys and the girls – no distinction here and nothing of real interest for anyone. SKIP IT
For the occasional theatre goer – Theatre Junction shows are most definitely not your speed and this one isn’t even worth trying to break out of your safety zone for. SKIP IT
For the theatre junkie – The risk does not beget reward here. Add on some vacuous writing and acting and it’s a snore from start to finish. SKIP IT