Arts Theatre

Théâtre du Nouveau Monde’s Abraham Lincoln va au théâtre makes a mockery of nuance

This 2010 play by Larry Tremblay is a combination of meta plot lines and comedy

The Théâtre du Nouveau Monde production debuted on March 14, and follows the story of two actors who went viral in a buddy cop series. They are hired by a cunning director who puts on a play about John Wilkes Booth, the infamous actor known for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. 

The fictional director, renowned Marc Killman, expresses the idea that American entertainment has always revolved around violence and finding ways to control the people. 

As rehearsals roll on, the tortured genius gets lost in a plethora of nuances that he bears down upon his actors, eventually completely losing track of the play’s theme. 

Writer Larry Tremblay was inspired by what he calls “America’s schizophrenia,” or the political polarity in the United States: the extremely poor versus the extremely rich, Republican versus Democrat, North versus South. 

“If I had to redefine my play today, in the era of post-truth in which we dove in, I would only choose one pair of antonyms: truth versus lie,” states Tremblay in the playbill. “And, with great pleasure, I would call my play Donald Trump goes to the Capitol.”

The playwright heavily twisted the presentation of the original theme by bringing layers of meta-fiction and absurdity, sending the audience in different directions. Each line had the audience questioning the direction in which the story was going. At times, it was even tough for the characters themselves to understand Killman’s ideas. 

“It’s a show where the first time you read it you say to yourself, ‘Oh boy, what are we getting into?’ But that’s what’s the best part about theatre,” exclaimed Bruno Marcil, who played Marc Killman in TNM’s production of the play. 

“We broke our necks for two months trying to understand what we were going to play, how we were going to play, and how we are going to approach it, and sometimes there were ideas that at the beginning held up the whole time, suddenly we said, ‘No that’s not it.’” 

According to Marcil, the only script in his career that was tougher to understand was Les Hardings, a play inspired by the Lac-Mégantic disaster that follows three men, each named Thomas Harding, from around the world who are thrust into each other’s lives by the disaster.

Actor Didier Lucien, who makes a later appearance in the plot of Abraham Lincoln va au théâtre, explained that “[the] script is never portrayed the same from one day to the next. Yes we rehearse, but each character is completely different. Just when we thought we’ve understood it, we realize that we’re way out in left field, and we have to restart. We were like detectives for this script.”

According to Marcil, the team working on the play has fantastic chemistry, and it shows on stage. Luc Bourgeois and Mani Soleymanlou play protagonists Laurel and Hardy, and have been long-time friends.

“The four of us plus our director together were in stitches the whole time, but at the same time we can have fun and when it’s time to put our heads down we make things work.”

Director Catherine Vidal did a fabulous job turning this complex and dark subject into something understandable and intriguing for the audience. She was also able to bring humour and satire in at the perfect moments. 

“The atmosphere during rehearsals was absolutely joyous because of our designers, engineers, and actors. Together, we were able to get through this cathedral script,” said Vidal.

I was at the edge of my seat trying to guess how much further the play within the play would be twisted, and what the next turn would be. This play was captivating, and brought me to unexpected audible laughs. I highly recommend you see it before the closing day on April 8.


Oscar fever: best picture round-up

Image via Flickr

This year’s Oscars have come and gone. Undoubtedly, 2012 was a great year for filmmaking and The Concordian is giving you a tour of all the best picture nominees, as well as the ultimate winner.

Life of Pi: Based on the popular book by Canadian author Yann Martel, Life of Pi tells the incredible tale of a boy and his trip across the Atlantic ocean on a raft, with a tiger.

When Pi’s family decides to move to Canada, they pack all of their worldly possessions, including their animals, onto a boat and begin the long journey. An enormous storm hits and Pi finds himself floating away on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a tiger.

Cinematically speaking, the movie scores quite a few points: the graphics were absolutely stunning, the scenery moving, and the story extremely compelling. Director Ang Lee, who won the award for best director, captures the true meaning of the book and makes something that could’ve been extremely dull, lively and breathtaking. Pi’s story has a final twist too, one that leaves audiences really pondering the true meaning of Pi’s life-changing adventure.


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Lincoln: Starring the notorious Daniel Day-Lewis who took home the Oscar for best actor, and directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, Lincoln tells the story of former American President Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to abolish slavery in the midst of the American Civil War. Despite the star-studded cast, viewers may find it to be a tad boring. This is mostly due to the fact that the movie makes a point of being as realistic as possible, going into every single detail in Lincoln’s fight against Congress and his struggle to get the necessary votes to pass the motion. Despite these few static points when yawns may escape from the audience, it is definitely still a must-see and elegantly captures this unique moment in American history.

Spielberg does do one thing that may leave audiences pleasantly surprised throughout the entire film. He makes a point of showing Lincoln’s truly unique, joking and down to earth character in different scenes. Day Lewis made us love the character and hope that he would achieve what his heart so deeply desired: equal rights. In all Lincoln is a great movie that perfectly and accurately captures a chunk of American history.


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Zero Dark Thirty: Kathryn Bigelow has done it again. Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the CIA’s plan to capture and kill terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. There’s only one word to accurately portray this movie: suspense. The last chapter of the film is, by far, the epitome of it as a team of elite American soldiers is sent into the home where Bin Laden is presumed to be hiding. The quiet is deafening, the suspense electrifying and the drama intense. One of the greatest moments in modern cinematic history made this a top contender for best picture.

Beasts of The Southern Wild

It’s worth noting that the movie received some criticisms when it first hit screens for it’s gruesome torture scenes. Many politicians and journalists alike were quick to deem the movie disgusting and unreal, claiming that this isn’t how it happened. However, despite being quite violent, these scenes were not unwatchable. All in all Zero Dark Thirty is a masterpiece, fully deserving of its nomination for best picture.


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Beasts of the Southern Wild: Perhaps the least publicized of the best picture nominees this year, yet also the one with the most imaginative timeline. A great example of artistic expression, with an extremely original storyline and surprisingly refreshing acting. It’s no wonder nine-year-old star of the movie, Quvenzhané Wallis, is the youngest person to ever be nominated for best actress. This movie tells the story of a young girl and her father living on an island off the coast of Louisiana called “The Bathtub.” However, due to the melting of the polar ice caps, the island is at the risk of inundation, and many people find themselves fleeing the community. Hushpuppy, played by Wallis, and her father decide to stay.

Hushpuppy’s father has trained her to be strong and fearless, however, when her father catches a mysterious illness, her community begins to crumble. Hushpuppy’s toughness is put to the test in this telling tale of courage and love.


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Les Miserables: Anne Hathaway stole the show and Russell Crowe definitely did not. Wonderful, charming and extremely beautiful, Hathaway, despite the fact that her performance in Les Miserables barely lasted half an hour, gave one of her best performances to date. It all came to an incredible climax when she gave her spot on rendition of I Dreamed A Dream. Crowe on the other hand struggled to master his musical skills, and has been criticized by many, including fellow cast member Sacha Baron Cohen.

Surprisingly, the film is entirely a musical. With no exceptions, almost every single line of dialect is sung, not spoken. This was an incredible feat to achieve, although it did make the movie quite long at some points. Despite this minor downside, it is an excellent rendition that definitely gets our thumbs up.


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Django Unchained: “The name is Django. The D is silent.” Quentin Tarantino has managed to create yet another one of his notoriously memorable movies. The story, written by Tarantino won the award for best original screenplay. This one has all the makings of a Tarantino classic; violence, bloodshed, controversy, a touchy subject and a star studded cast. Django is set in the Western United States, a few years before the Civil War, at a time when equal rights between African-Americans and white people had yet to be established. In the movie, Django is a slave who is bought by a bounty hunter played Christoph Waltz. In exchange for his help, the bounty hunter promises to find Django’s wife. They later find out she is owned by an extremely rich and powerful white man, played by Leonardo Dicaprio. Needless to say, the movie does not lack action and, by all accounts, provides one of the most entertaining endings in recent movie history.



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Amour: Amour was not only nominated for best foreign film, but also for best picture at this year’s Oscars. Emmanuelle Riva plays an old woman whose health slowly deteriorates before our eyes in this heartbreaking film. Riva perfectly captures the struggle an elder must face as his or her health fails, giving us a gripping view of what old age can become for some people.

In this movie, the husband George must care for his wife as she suffers two strokes in a short amount of time. An amazing depiction of how even the strongest of loves are often tested. Amour is a different type of love story, a heartbreaking one, seriously testing what one must to do to make his better half happy. If I had it my way, Amour would have won best picture, but considering the circumstances, I think taking home the Oscar for best foreign film is a great achievement in itself.


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Silver Linings Playbook: Silver Linings Playbook was a serious contender for the most prestigious oscar. The movie is so realistic, the acting so precise, and the story so unique that they all mesh together to make an amazing picture. Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy that strays from the stereotypical layout most movies follow. The story begins when Bradley Cooper, playing a bipolar history teacher, catches his wife cheating on him with another professor he works with. He snaps and is sentenced to eight months in a psychiatric ward.


We see Cooper’s difficult path towards rehabilitation, his crumbling relationship with his wife and parents and his drive to make his life better and get his wife back. Needless to say, his plans don’t pan out exactly as he thought in his quest to find that silver lining he so desperately needs. Jennifer Lawrence also delivers an excellent performance for which she took home the oscar for best actress. Silver Linings Playbook really delves into the struggles of deep mental illness, all the while telling an extremely interesting story.


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And… the Oscar for best picture goes to… (awkward envelope opening)….. ARGO.

Argo: What a story. A masterpiece, some may say, based on the true story of a CIA-based operation in the 1970s to extract six fugitive members of American personnel from an extremely violent and revolutionary Iran. What made Argo such a great film is the fact that it so accurately portrayed the true story, all the while dramatizing it. The crowds, the protests raging and the violence roaring are so accurately portrayed that they create an emotional dimension that’s difficult to find in most dramatic productions of a true story.

Ben Affleck, who plays real-life CIA agent Tony Mendez, stars and directs in this film. Most audience members will agree that Argo is a fast-paced and smart movie which is well-worth the watch.



Lincoln will make you laugh and cry

Press photo for Steven Spielberg’s biographical film, Lincoln

From the looks of it, there’s an Abraham Lincoln craze going on. Six months ago, Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton brought us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; a horror and action film based on the novel of the same name. In this take on the Abraham Lincoln story, the narrator supposedly possesses a secret diary detailing Honest Abe’s life as if he were a male, top-hat wearing version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

While the probability of Lincoln fighting the undead can be put up for debate, Steven Spielberg’s biographical film, Lincoln, is based on historical accounts of the president’s fight for equality and the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation that would officially abolish slavery.

This historical drama follows Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) in his final sprint to pull together the votes he needs to abolish slavery and end the war, while dealing with a less-than-perfect home life.

His wife, Mary (played by Sally Field), is still grief stricken over the premature death of their son, William and is plagued by incurable headaches. Lincoln’s beloved eldest son, Robert (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies both his parents’ wishes when he decides to join the war, causing further grief to both his parents. At one point, Mary lashes out at Lincoln, blaming him for her unconsoled grievance and accusing him of only remaining with her because of Robert.

Meanwhile, Lincoln is endlessly encouraging his men to scrounge up the last 20 votes needed to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, while both the Democrats and his own Republican party try to convince him that it’s pointless. There is a very visible strain on Lincoln as he juggles war, politics and home-life while trying to keep himself, his party and his people optimistic.

Cinematography-wise, the use of natural lighting, having the actors lit by light coming in from windows and lamps, while harsh in some situations and dark in others, plays well to the mood of the era and film. The high contrast created also adds a certain artistic flair, sharpening expressions and adding grit.

There are also several beautiful scenes in which not a single word is said. One such scene is of Lincoln and his youngest son Tad, where the camera work says more than words ever could about Lincoln being and having the time to be a caring father-figure as well as a powerful political leader. Near the beginning of the film, Lincoln finds Tad asleep in front of the fireplace and lays down next to him to wake him and carry him to bed. A heartwarming scene that shows the man as not only a dedicated leader but also a caring parent.

The story follows not only Lincoln in his day-to-day work of meeting with fellow politicians, meeting with soldiers, giving speeches, working in war-rooms, but it also follows his men at work in the field, debating and watching debates in the House and sometimes just discussing the possibilities of the future amongst themselves. In reality, there were a lot of people involved in the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation, meaning there are a lot of characters to follow in the film, which may play into why the movie was so very long.

There is quite a bit of monologues and political dialogue, but it is well balanced with, believe it or not, humour, such as the old-school political mud-slinging and slander in the House between the Republicans and Democrats, which makes for good comedy.

Day-Lewis expertly goes from laid-back Lincoln to motivational-presidential-speech Lincoln to Stuart-McLean-this-reminds-me-of-a-story-Lincoln in nothing flat. The latter often giving Lincoln’s men, and the audience, a good laugh.

That being said, viewers may find the film a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, going from serious to humorous to sad several times throughout the film.

Despite the two and a half hour length and the inevitable, tragic ending, Lincoln is a blockbuster. The acting is captivating, the camera work is fantastic and the mix of Lincoln’s light-hearted quirky stories and the seriousness of the subject matter is just enough to keep the historical biography from being dry.

Watch the trailer for Lincoln:

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