Review: LILIES: or, The Revival of a Romantic Drama

by Lynn on May 26, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Michel Marc Bouchard

Translated by Linda Gaboriau

Directed by Cole Alvis

Scenographer, Jay Havens

Costumes by Joanna Yu

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound and composer by Deanna H. Choi

Composition by Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone

Cast: Walter Borden

Mark Cassius

Alexander Chapman

Waawaate Fobister

Ryan G. Hinds

Indrit Kasapi

Tsholo Khalema

Troy Emery Twigg

Joseph Zita

 The play has resonance for today since almost the whole cast is either black or Indigenous. Uneven acting adds to a rather lackluster production except for the last 10 minutes, which are shattering.

 The Story. Lilies; or, The Revival of a Romantic Drama by Michel Marc Bouchard, takes place in a prison and is about a love triangle that developed 35 years before. And it’s about a man’s quest for revenge and justice.

 Michel Marc Bouchard wrote Lilies in 1987. It took place in Quebec and was about gay love. Two school boys in 1912 fell in love when they were in a play about Saint Sebastian.  One of them, Simon Doucet was implicated in a crime and sent to jail. Now 35 years later Simon wants to know what happened that got him there. He arranges for another school hood friend, now Bishop Jean Bilodeau, to attend, because Bilodeau has the key to the mystery.  Simon also arranges for his fellow prisoners to put on the play for Bilodeau. By doing this he hopes Bilodeau will tell the truth of what happened.

 The Production. Lilies: or, The Revival of a Romantic Drama is the same play as Lilies but it’s been re-imagined to reflect our prisons today.  A program note explains that in Canada’s population 4.3% are Indigenous but in a federal prison’s population today 28% are Indigenous.  Similarly, black communities make up 3% of Canada and over 8% of the prison population.

So most of the actors in the production are Indigenous or black. I think this works to illuminate the situation with our prisons. It seems like a no brainer in fact. The structure of the play is still there but the participants better reflect the prison population now. My concern with the casting is that the acting is uneven.  Some are more accomplished than others and it creates a bumpy night. But Walter Borden as Simon is consistently strong and focused.  Alexander Chapman as Bishop Bilodeau is almost repressed in his reserve.

He knows what happened all those year ago because he too was in love with Simon, but the affection was not reciprocated.

Director Cole Alvis (who has Métis-Chippewa, Irish and English ancestors) does reasonable job of staging the actors and considering the uneven aspect of the cast, he does the best he can. But the production just blazes in the last 10 minutes as it realizes all the pent up rage of Simon after so many years, and the guilty conscience the Bishop has endured for 35 years when he comes clean to tell what happened all those years before.

Michel Marc Bouchard does a close, intricate dance of what forgiveness and guilt look like to characters after so many years.  Cole Alvis has the Bishop sitting ramrod straight in a seat to the side of the stage, while watching the play unfold. Close by him is Simon, watching for any crack in the Bishop’s steely demeanor. Still, this production is underwhelming.

I saw this late in the run. It closes May 26.


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