matthew and stephen by Jean-Rock Gaudreault, directed by Jacinthe Potvin, with Daniel Brochu and Eric Davis. Presented by Matthew, François et les autres... and the International Children's Festival at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). May 25 at 3:15 pm, May 26 at 3:30 pm. $6-$15. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Jean-Rock Gaudreault's Matthew and Stephen takes on two of life's biggest themes -- mortality and time -- and folds them into a deceptively simple play about alienated kids. The show is a must-see at the International Children's Festival.Anxious and friendless Stephen (Eric Davis) moves to a new neighbourhood, where, in the bottom of an empty swimming pool, he meets Matthew (Daniel Brochu), an eccentric young boy with a fierce imagination who's dying from what he calls "the sickness of our time."
Gaudreault never talks down to his young characters, and he's especially sensitive to how game-playing and fantasy help children cope with what's happening in their lives.
The boys' dilemmas emerge gradually, and the script -- smoothly translated by Linda Gaboriau -- travels to unexpected places. An environmental message seems tucked into an ongoing gag about chemical ingredients, and I'm pretty sure there's a subtle reference to Hamlet in Matthew's penchant for killing sparrows.
Director Jacinthe Potvin coaxes fine performances from the leads, especially Brochu, whose breathy voice and hair-trigger emotions capture Matthew's questioning soul. Stephane Roy's set evokes an empty leaf-strewn pool, yet skews perspective so we see how out of kilter the boys' universes have become.
Some moments lag, and Catherine Gadouas's lyrical score professes a bit too much. But this is a poignant little hour of theatre about the enduring power of imagination and friendship.