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by Stephan Cloutier
Théâtre la Seizième, Théâtre la Catapulte and Théâtre français de Toronto
March 21–31
Studio 16, 1545 W. 7th Av.

One way to describe Apocalypse à Kamloops might be a French-language version of Angels in America without AIDS, politics, or America.  Like Tony Kushner, Stephan Cloutier is concerned with the state of our souls in the contemporary world.  And although it doesn’t have the thematic or theatrical ambition of Angels, Apocalypse shares its serio-comic vision of a world teetering on the verge of destruction, unprepared for the possibilities of redemption.

Here the coming apocalypse is literal: a comet is approaching earth and will soon annihilate it. The angel of salvation in this play is the elegant, ironic Stérope (Patricia Marceau), resplendent in a white gown with an ever-present martini glass.  She calls herself a “muse,” and comes with a young assistant, Nathalie (Lyne Barnabé). 

For some reason they have chosen to work on Jocelyn (Pierre Simpson), a cynical, foul-mouthed young man living in Vancouver, estranged from his family.  When the muses arrive they find him masturbating at a peep show on Granville Mall. What Stérope calls their “karmic intervention” is going to be a tough sell.  He’s pretty far gone.

Their salvationist project involves reconciling Jocelyn with his family in Kamloops. And they have their own issues.  Punkish kid sister Mireille (Annie Lefebvre) is perpetually angry.  Bernard (Guy Mignault) is a weak father, unable to keep the family together.  Neither of them can see Stérope (though they can see—and touch—Nathalie), who vows to help them all take the next step in their evolution so they’re not reincarnated as worms.

Although the play is mostly talk—and my French is not good enough to have picked up all the details of their conversations—there is some significant action.  A communal dinner comprises the centrepiece of their reconciliation, where the father embraces his son and accepts his homosexuality.  Nathalie breaks through Mireille’s anger with some old-fashioned (but same-sex) making out in the back seat of a car.  Love is all you need.

The play never takes itself too seriously, and at times it gets a little silly, but overall it’s an attractive concoction. Its single act clips along nicely under Joël Beddows’ direction, and the acting is very good, with Simpson’s Jocelyn and Barnabé’s Nathalie the standouts. Glen Charles Landry’s set is a terrific jumble of junk, effectively reflecting what Beddows eloquently describes in the press kit as “a world of dead ideologies that have been replaced by a pile of mass-produced trash overflowing on a planet deserted by happiness.”

The playwright, director, and most of the actors and designers of Apocalypse à Kamloops come out of the theatre of Franco-Ontario, but Vancouver’s Théâtre la Seizième has been a significant partner and co-producer in the project.  Kudos to this company that keeps francophone theatre alive and thriving in our province, which Mireille describes in one of my favourite lines in the play: “Beautiful British Columbia—la mer, les montagnes, et le pot!”

Jerry Wasserman