Michel and Ti-Jean – Review


(L to R) Mathieu Bourossa and Duval Lang. Photo Credit: Jason Mehmel


Michel and Ti-Jean

May 1 – 10, 2014

Studio Theatre


Listen to my review from CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener at http://www.cbc.ca/eyeopener/columnists/theatre/2014/05/05/jessica-goldmans-latest-review-1/



For Kerouac/Tremblay fans – Neither one of this literary giants comes off as likeable in this production. Kerouac is portrayed as a bitter/self-pitying drunk whose stream of conscious prose sounds like a slightly elevated Hallmark card. Tremblay is drawn as a sycophantic, gosh-wow, fairly empty-headed young writer. All this would have been fine I suppose,  if their conversation had elicited anything resembling heft or even interest. Instead it’s a minutia navel gazing that offers no real insight or intrigue. SKIP IT

For newbies to the writers – This is a name dropping, reference ridden narrative that will leave you in the dark much of the time. Yes, you’ll get the basic gist of the men’s style of writing and topics of choice, but you’d be far better off reading their works themselves to imagine what a meeting of these minds might have been like. SKIP IT

For the occasional theatre goer – A two-hour conversation between writers who are far less interesting than the work they produce most certainly will not ring your bell. SKIP IT

For the theatre junkie – Not even an incredible talent like Duval Lang (as Kerouac) could save this play from being a slog. With a distinct lack of tension, no real intellectual challenge and a trajectory that reeks of cliché, this is an utter disappointment all around. SKIP IT



  1. Toromnivore · May 5, 2014

    Wow. So sorry you missed the journey I was on.
    We see many productions throughout the season and thought this was by far one of the best. The advancing and retreating dance Tremblay must execute in order to win an audience with his idol was engaging and rewarding when he succeeds. That their subsequent discourse was not a prolonged Wallace Shawn-like intellectual pursuit was completely refreshing. That we learned so much about the families of both characters revealed from where much of their artistic inspiration was derived, and the sharing of those stories felt sincere, were funny, even through and maybe because of their boozy haze.
    I thought the performances were exceptional. I too am a big fan of Duval Lang and now Mathieu Bourassa and was completely transported. The audience I was in all rose as one as soon as the lights went down and I am not a frequent participant in standing o’s at all. I for one would have been quite happy to stay in that bar a little longer.

  2. Wendy · May 5, 2014

    Hmmmm. I think I feel the same way about your review of Michel and Ti-Jean as you did of the play! I absolutely loved Michel and Ti-Jean. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in Calgary this year. I loved the jazz elements and felt they were very well executed. As for the dialogue being minutia, I didn’t see it that way. Perhaps we expect too much of literary and intellectual giants to assume that every conversation they have must delve into big ideas. Isn’t this a reminder that even the greats among us have the same human challenges – broken hearts, melancholy for childhood, disappointments, challenging relationships with parents, etc. etc? I guess that’s the beauty of art. People see different things. And what I saw was a true delight. Surely, deserving of much more than a simple “skip it”.

    • Jessica Goldman · May 5, 2014

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, the beauty of art is that we see different things. And it is an egocentric theatre critic who believes her review is a verdict rather than the start of a discussion.
      I agree that personal human challenges are the shared property of great artists and regular folk alike. But when these challenges are put forth for our enjoyment/consideration on the stage, I would hope for more compelling offerings than Kerouac drunkenly (and not altogether convincingly) and suddenly blubbering over his dead brother or Tremblay fondly remembering his mother and her cooking. It’s not to say that these weren’t important feelings for the artists, I’m sure they were. But my feeling is that when presented in this ‘no moment feels unplanned’ and overly polished manner, it felt so WRITTEN that it sucked any real emotion or insight from the effort.
      So we agree to disagree. But as always, I’m thrilled that you shared your thoughts with me and delighted that you had a good night in the theatre. Keep seeing, keep discussing!

  3. Dave · May 5, 2014

    What I love about theatre is its ability to affect people in completely different ways.

    While I can appreciate your sentiments on the production, I was completely moved by the piece. For me, the first act was a nice introduction to one man who had just given up on life and one who had his whole life in front of him. While I haven’t been in a situation like Kerouac, I can sympathize with him, as I feel we’ve all been in a position where we just want to give up – most of us just don’t hide in a bottle.

    The second act had me in emotional pieces. I’m not French Canadian but I could relate to the people the two talk about; I know those people. It was like he was talking about my family.

    I found myself fighting back tears at the end of the performances. Maybe it was remembering the pain of losing a loved one too young or maybe I was just in an overly emotional mood that day. Either way, the production left me feeling emotionally raw, in the best possible way.

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