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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Bliss (Wildside)

Trent Pardy, Jean-Robert Bourdage, France Rolland 
(photo credit: James Lavoie)

The Oracle of Walmart
Engaging, shocking, powerful, bliss
by David Sklar

I had the experience of seeing Bliss two years ago at the SummerWorks festival in Toronto. The story written by Olivier Choiniere, a graduate of NTS (National Theatre School of Canada) playwriting program on the French side, explores the extremities of the world as seen through a Walmart cashier/oracle. The play moves about in a quick, quirky and unpredictable way, edging on disturbing. Its director, Steven McCarthy, who also doubled as one of the actors in the summer production, believes that “Céline Dion is the goddess of the play”. (Thanks Pat Donnelly).  Having won the CanStage award for Best Direction, you should take him at his word.     

Aside from parallel stories of Céline Dion’s miscarriage and the brutal rape of Isabelle Coté, the play adds an extra layer of intrigue. A Greek-like chorus, able to bend to the will of the Oracle, shape and correct each other as to the accuracy of their version of events.  It might be tricky to nail down one central theme, but whichever you choose to focus on, you will continue to discuss it, even after you leave the theatre. The play, set up in a narrative, descriptive format, which easily drags down other pieces, stands out successfully.     

When watching tonight, I was trying to avoid deconstructing it since I already knew the plot. But don’t you just love it when you can watch a movie for the fourteenth time and still experience the same emotions? This is what Bliss did for me.  Aside from Trent Pardy taking back the role from McCarthy and adding a more upscale set/design, the play resembles the pressure cooker, edge of the seat, forgetting to check your watch, play, that I remember.       

With the help from a very talented cast, the story is engaging, the subject matter shocking and even if I preferred the intimate setting during SummerWorks, the show remains a powerful piece of theatre.                

If you miss your chance to see Bliss this week, you can still check it out in Toronto at Buddies in Bad Times.  

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