LA BELLE ET LA BETE created by Michel Lemieux, Victor Pilon and Pierre-Yves Lemieux, translated by Maureen Labonté (Lemieux Pilon 4D Art/Luminato). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to Tuesday (June 12), Monday-Tuesday 7:30 pm. $49-$99. 416-368-4849, luminato.com. See listing. Rating: NNN
For sheer beauty and stage wonder, it's hard to top La Belle Et La Bete, the latest work by Montreal's Lemieux Pilon 4D Art.
At times, richly detailed projections suffuse the stage and much of the theatre walls; and the actors interact - sometimes quite intimately, I might add - with hologram-like characters that give that extra D to the company's name.
It's a shame the script and performances don't quite match the show's technical elegance. Pierre-Yves Lemieux's contemporary retelling of the Beauty And The Beast story is weighed down by philosophical flimflam about concepts of good and evil, outer and inner beauty.
These themes are present in any adaptation of the French fairy tale, but for some reason Lemieux stresses them even more in his underwhelming narrative about disturbed painter Belle's (Bénédicte Décar) meeting with a reclusive mystery man who's scarred both literally and figuratively (Stéphane Demers).
How they meet involves some McGuffin about a rose medallion that belonged to Belle's father. This sets in motion a confusing plot in which the Beast wants Belle to paint him, but only if she can paint herself. (She has scars, too, you see, involving the recent death of her mother.) Of course the two eventually fall in love.
Several things stand in the way of their happily-ever-after ending, however. Belle keeps arguing with two sister-like figures (both played by Anne-Marie Cadieux as holograms) who dispense conflicting advice. And there's a sinister demonic figure (Peter James) who occasionally hovers over the couple. What role a valiant white horse plays in the proceedings isn't clear, but the visual effect is quite stunning.
Less stunning are the words that the two central characters say to each other. Their dialogue never seems convincing, and we never connect to them emotionally. (The pair's accents and the fact that they lack any chemistry might also have something to do with that.)
Thankfully, there's another character who gets a lot of stage time. The Lady (Diane D'Aquila) acts as narrator and as a mysterious figure in the Beast's past. D'Aquila delivers her lines with such complete authority and drama that it's easily to be swept up in her spell.
Even with all the technical wizardry around around her, D'Aquila holds her own and proves in the end there's nothing like the power of one human telling a tale to a group of others.