First you're born by Line Knutzon, directed by Brendan Healy. Presented by Collective Architecture at the Factory Mainspace. August 8 at 8 pm, August 9 10:30 pm, August 10 at 3:30 pm, August 11 at 5 pm, August 14 at 11 pm, August 16 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
At least something good's coming out of the nation's capital. Last year at Ottawa's National Arts Centre, local writer/actor Julian Doucet took part in a staged reading of Danish writer Line Knutzon 's play First You're Born. He found the piece so hysterically funny and different, he jumped at the chance to mount it here.
"It's like the bastard child of Sartre and Björk," says Doucet about the 1994 romantic comedy, which has received more than 40 productions worldwide.
"I hate the word 'quirky,' but that's what it is in the true sense of the word," says Doucet, whose SummerWorks 2002 hit Phae - a reworking of Phaedre - is getting remounted this winter.
"The play is beautiful and bumpy. It's all odd angles, and we have no template for the characters here in Canada. They're not stock, they're totally original. I don't know if in Denmark these are recognizable archetypes."
Six isolated characters live in the same building, including two socially retarded sisters named Lis and Pis, a man who's literally vanishing and a woman who carries every bit of her life around with her.
Doucet plays Viktor, a hypochondriac who suffers from migraines and spontaneous vomiting fits. Throughout the play he tries to conceal his puking problem.
The neurotic characters and their obsessions lend themselves to a hypertheatrical treatment, says Doucet. The show will be pitched at "a slightly higher volume than normal."
But he also points out that director Brendan Healy has asked the performers to keep it simple.
"The characters have basic wants and desires," explains Doucet. "The script is childlike but not childish. The comedy arises from the odd manifestation of their neuroses. You have to play it for truth."
Playwright Knutzon, reached during July on holiday, has had only a few words of advice for the production team.
"She told Brendan, 'These characters aren't losers! They're my friends and I. And I'm not a loser. '"