What does maturity look like? Well to Pierre-Guy B maturity is a subjective concept that cannot and should not always be proved to others.
Le long voyage de Pierre-Guy B, presented by Théâtre français de Toronto, is the type of comedy that will have you smirk one moment and have you wet with tears the next. Pierre-Guy is a talented percussionist who has spent years traveling across Eastern Europe and the Middle East. When the traveler returns home to his east coast roots he shares his fringe experiences and his trepidations with an old friend, played by Christian Essiambre.
The play is described as a “biographical fiction,” narrating the stories of Pierre-Guy Blanchard’s exotic travels and those of his current home in Charlo, New Brunswick. The play tells this story through the dramatized friendship Pierre has with Essiambre, who heads out to Charlo after a long absence in their friendship.
Both of the men have grown up in show business and both actors give a stellar performance. There are a few glitches with the narrative however. Many of the earlier scenes with Essiambre and his family are hard to follow within the scope of the play. These moments drag on a little, especially for those following along with subtitles. I became anxious for Pierre-Guy’s first entrance during these scenes. While Essiambre’s fluid body movements make for a captivating delivery, the opening scenes could have been spent focusing more on introducing Pierre-Guy. Nonetheless, the lack of subtitles during Essiambre’s English dialogue, which typically consists of cussing and crude phrases, is something to be laughed at.
The music is what truly makes the play, as Pierre-Guy sits down to a semicircle of instruments which become his own musical playground. His energy comes through as he pounds on the drums and grooves on the xylophone. Transitions in energy and subject matter are smoothed out through music. Since the show focuses on Pierre-Guy’s personal journey motivated by music, the show would have benefitted from featuring more music early on.
The core of the play illustrates the type of problems people face that don’t lend credence to words. Music is one avenue where Pierre-Guy can express himself wholeheartedly without feeling like the whole world is judging him. He discovers this as music brings him to various countries and becomes his strongest form of communication. This is made evident in the ridiculously funny monologue where Pierre-Guy compares exotic music and Western club music.
The sub-plot featuring Essiambre as he hangs on to his alcoholic tendencies, projects life as a series of interruptions and pseudo reality, the balancing act between who you imagine yourself to be and who you actually are.
The actors’ reactions are very natural with one another. Their comedic timing will have audiences laughing until the next round of jokes. These jokes are juxtaposed with heavier material like the prevalence of mental health within comedy. The back and forth from comedic to serious content was like watching a well-planned Talking Heads music video. There are some amazing scenes, whereby both actors recall their grandfather’s advice in a dream-like state. These scenes are some of the most entertaining.
For someone who has done a fair share of traveling in the past few months, this play definitely resonated with me, illustrating the type of depression one feels when returning home after an amazing trip abroad and the lessons one learns from traveling that cannot fit nicely into society’s definition of learning.
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