La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast)

December 5, 2012

in Performance Art, Plays

Theater Performance (2012)

Created and Directed by Michel Lemieux & Victor Pilon
Created and Written by Pierre Yves Lemieux

Lemieux Pilon 4D Art
ArtsEmerson
Cutler Majestic Theater
Boston, MA

December 5 – 9, 2012

Original Music: Michel Smith, Visual Co-Designer: Mathieu St-Arnaud, Lighting Designer: Alain Lortie

With Bénédicte Décary (Belle), Diane D’Aquila (The Lady), Vincent Leclerc (The Beast)

Virtual Characters: Anne-Marie Cadieux (The Sister), Peter James (The Demon), Champagne (The Horse), trained by Azalée Gaudreau

Beauty and The Beast Poster

A psychological, and contemporary, version of the traditional tale rendered with spectacular technical stagecraft, involving striking video projections and holograms.

In this telling, Beauty (Bénédicte Décary), a contemporary painter, visits the Beast (Vincent Leclerc), who is, as in the usual tale, moody, isolated and emotionally tortured. Naturally, they fall in love.

Beauty’s sister (Anne-Marie Cadieux), in a couple of different modalities, get involved to advise her one way and another, alternately building her up and putting her down. The narrator, simply known as The Lady (Diane D’Aquila) provides yet another psychological complication, offering her own charms to the irresistible Beast.

Peter James as the Demon and Bénédicte Décary as Belle

Peter James as the Demon
Bénédicte Décary as Belle
Photo: Yves Renaud
Courtesy ArtsEmerson

This is an amazing production, technically, and a very routine one dramatically.

For anyone interested in stagecraft, go, absolutely. The video artistry is astounding. To watch the interior of the Emerson Majestic theater go from a forest to a castle with vividly projected and very realistic looking images is really something. The roots representing the forest projected on the stage and the on the walls of the theatre were so vivid it was hard to imagine they were not really there.

Bénédicte Décary as Belle with Champagne the Holographic Horse

Bénédicte Décary as Belle
with Champagne the Holographic Horse
Photo: Yves Renaud
Courtesy ArtsEmerson

There are holograms of characters that interact with the three live actors. A virtual horse comes out in three vivid dimensions. When Beauty hurls paint at her canvases, red splotches appear on their projections. Scrims get moved in and out to help create spatial illusions and the results are fabulous, the effect striking and almost unbelievable.

The quality of these visual effects reminded me of the effects engineered by Robert Lepage in the production of Wagner’s Ring at The Metropolitan Opera over the last couple of seasons. (See entries for Die Walküre, Siegfried.) Lemieux and Pilon, the creators and directors of La Belle et La Bête, are based in Montreal, as is Lepage, and they are friendly but apparently they work independently.

Bénédicte Décary as Belle and Peter James as The Demon in a virtual cloister

Bénédicte Décary as Belle
Peter James as The Demon
in a virtual cloister
Photo: Yves Renaud
Courtesy ArtsEmerson

The play itself was uninspiring. There was pretension of a more contemporary and psychologically complex twist on the traditional story, and lines were delivered with a great sense of import, but there was very little drama to any of it. The actors were okay, though the writing did not give them much to do. The original production was in French. That this adaptation in English is new might add to the problem, though my sense is that there were limitations of the narrative from the outset.

It might help if one were to regard the tale as a simple, and inconsequential, narrative device for the incredible visual extravaganza. The pure technical accomplishment of this piece makes it really something to see.

– BADMan

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