LILI by Lise Vaillancourt, directed by Jacqueline Gosselin and Robert Dion, with Julie Beaulieu, Sandrine Mérette, Frédéric Nadeau, Christian Perrault and Martin Vaillancourt. Presented by DynamO Théâtre and the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People at LKTYP (165 Front East). Runs to February 20, Sunday 11:30 am, 2:30 and 4:30 pm; French-language shows February 13 at 4:30 pm and February 20 at 11:30 am. $19. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
You'll feel like you've had a workout after watching Lili , a touring production by Montreal's DynamO Théâtre . Its gymnastic moves are sometimes so engrossing, though, that the story gets pushed to the sidelines.
Lili is the tale of the nine-year-old title character ( Sandrine Mérette ), who's about to take the step from childhood to adolescence. She's encouraged to be more mature when she develops a new affection for the cute Francis ( Frédéric Nadeau ), but she wants to hold onto childlike securities when her parents ( Julie Beaulieu and Martin Vaillancourt ) fight or when she worries about losing her best friend, Chester ( Christian Perrault ).
Lise Vaillaincourt 's script alternates between happy playground episodes and darker psychological moments when Lili's fears emerge. Both are splendidly physicalized, with the hyperkinetic cast creating a mini-Cirque du Soleil of gravity-defying leaps, balancing tricks and acrobatics. Even the set whirls, mirroring Lili's tumbling universe as she recounts her dreams, stories and changing life.
There's lots of cleverness in the staging. A rough sea covers the stage, a tiny boat floating in its billowing waves, and a mermaid swims out of the depths. A door and its frame have multiple uses, at one point acting as a dance partner, and that doorway is crucial to the play's final magical moments. Lili begins writing a story about her friends, bringing them to life; disliking what she's written, she crumples the page and the actors similarly curl up.
At times the exuberance of the production keeps narrative and characterization to a minimum. I'd like to feel more of Lili's concerns for the sick Chester, which only appear strongly at the end, or her infatuation with Francis and the jealous actions of her friend Celest. Lili is a good work, but it could be a richer one.