THE SEVEN DAYS OF SIMON LABROSSE by Carole Fréchette, translated by John Murrell, directed by Michael Shamata, with Paul Fauteux, Mike Hughes and Manon St-Jules. Presented by Pleaides, Montreal Young Company and Gravy Bath at Artword Alternative (75 Portland). Runs to May 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$30, Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723, ext 290. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
One person's despair is sometimes another person's hope. Carole Fréchette 's The Seven Days Of Simon Labrosse shows us the fantastic lengths to which the title character goes to find some meaning in life and keep an element of sanity in his everyday existence.
The unemployed Simon ( Mike Hughes ) has organized Nathalie ( Manon St-Jules ) and Leo ( Paul Fauteux ) to play different figures in episodes from his life in a work he presents self-consciously as a stage show. He's found Nathalie through a newspaper want ad; Leo's a brain-damaged poet who can't be positive about anything.
Simon's partners have stronger egos than he does, so the doggedly negative Leo and the determinedly autobiographic and body-centred Nathalie sometimes come on stronger than the play's "author." It's clear early on, though, that all three are needy in their own fashion.
From day to day, Simon's plans to earn money evolve; he wants to help Leo and to be reconnected with his girlfriend, Nathalie - not the one we see, but another who's gone off to Africa. Fréchette reveals a lovely sense of surreal whimsy in Simon's choice of jobs, including being an audience-for-rent and the finisher of thoughts for tongue-tied people.
But underneath that there's lots of pain and some mixed messages, and director Michael Shamata doesn't always capture the script's nuances and comic moments, especially its sometimes dark human comedy. Fréchette (Helen's Necklace, Elisa's Skin) knows how to intrigue an audience with seemingly ordinary details, but this production only suggests the play's emotional levels.
Fauteux's angry Leo is the most realized figure, and St-Jules has some good moments, but Hughes plays only a few of Simon's tones, becoming a richer character only when his desire takes human form. The production works best when the three combine to make a triangle of desires, the vectors of control shifting back and forth. But there's dramatically less than a week in these Seven Days.