Upon entering Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace, the first thing you might notice is a large cube with open sides in the centre of the room, with eerie red lights illuminating its raised stage. The second would be the man lying splayed out, face down in the middle of the light. He stays unmoving until the lights dim and The De Chardin Project begins.
This man is revealed as Teilhard de Chardin (Cyrus Lane). Teilhard is on the verge of death, as is revealed early on by the Guide (Maev Beaty). She takes him on a journey into the past to explore the strange and wonderful story that is his life. This voyage through time reveals the exploits of an incredible man, one that actually did exist, in Teilhard. A Jesuit priest, scientist and geologist, Teilhard sought to bridge the gap between evolution and faith, using the information from our ancestral past in an attempt to explain God’s work. It is a remarkable look into the debate between religion and science, told from the point of view of a man who believed in both.
A cleverly designed set, incorporating trapdoors that reveal chairs, tables, and other props, allows for the relatively small space to become a number of unique locations in a manner of seconds. Lighting and sound also plays an integral role in establishing the different scenes and coupled with great chemistry between Lane and Beaty, the rather simplistic set is forgotten amongst the many snapshots of Teilhard’s life.
With only two actors onstage, the incursions into Teilhard’s past pit Lane against Beaty as several different characters, each an uncommon and remarkable individual. From an American soldier to a Canadian miner, Beaty’s ensemble of characters present an interesting counterpart to the singular Teilhard. Lane’s Teilhard is single-minded and absolute, and his interactions with such a diverse selection of personas, all played by Beaty, is fascinating to watch.
Whatever your opinion, or whichever side of the debate you might take, Teilhard’s journey into the heart of the clash between science and religion is altogether unique. His upbringing as a man of faith with a mind of science gives him an intriguing perspective of the conflict, and the opportunity to look back at his life while on the brink of death only seems to raise more unanswerable questions about the meaning of not only his life, but of all life, for all time.
The De Chardin Project runs until December 14th. Tickets are $38 and $17 for the under 30 crowd. Visit www.passemuraille.ca for details.