Part of the joy of a theater festival is seeing that amateur hour gets mixed in with professional acts, helping newer writers and actors get recognition in the big kids' milieu. Cosmopolitain is part of the former, Philippe Nicolitch's first full-length play and it shows potential.
This play is a mad-cap night at Hél ène (Cindy François) and Jean-Luc's (Jean-Paul Figasso) house, for his mother's (Jocelyne Millet) birthday, as well as the same day that his lesbian sister (Charlotte Deyzac) comes back from Kathmandu, that he and his wife decide to give up their comfy city lives to do mission work in the third world, that Jean-Luc dumps his male lover, Rashid (Fabrice Milich), and everyone finds out he has a secret relationship with Jean-Luc's father (Pierre Vorméringer).
Yes, a big day, and you know what that means in mad-cap: secrets get exposed! People make sarcastic comments! Hilarity ensues! C'est la folie!
Oh, sorry, the sarcasm apparently doesn't stop when the curtain falls.
If this were a larger production, I'm sure there would be plenty of blame to pass around for why this play simply didn't work. The actors didn't keep a good rhythm. The conversations are loooooooong and interrupted with tired jokes. I almost felt sorry for Millet who's delivering joke after joke in an opening monologue, all clearly marked like an airport runway in the night, complete with the guy holding two lamps and directing the plane to a safe landing, but no one laughed. While I give Deyzac a definite thumbs up for her charming performance, the rest of the actors, well, at least they all memorized their lines.
The directions and decor were filled with bizarre choices. I entered the theater and a 90's techno version of the theme from Love Boat (I kid you not) was playing on repeat. Since this festival's been a bit lax about starting on time, imagine listening to that about eight times before starting a play. Hence some of my pity for the opening monologues - the audience was already annoyed and the actors had yet to say a word.
(Another note on music: I don't know why, but every time Jean-Luc's mother spoke, they played Janis Joplin's Cry Baby. It didn't really have much to do with her character, the mood of the play, or the general plot, but, er, um... everyone loves Janis, right? Right?)
The scene was decorated in 90's art deco as well - sterile furniture and geometric art set the scene for a loveless couple in a relationship where Hél ène wants more adventure in her life and her husband is a real square, his career and their money just aren't enough.... OK, the art deco kinda makes sense. I guess the theme for the whole thing was "Party like it's 1995."
Anyway, the script moves forward like an untamed shrew with something to prove and one plot twist after another gets tossed at this poor couple. Testing and breaking the limits of credibility at every turn (um, when you find out you just had sex with your brother by accident, you don't act shocked for five seconds and then try to make out again. Just an FYI, for the next time, you know?), the play leaves "comedy" in the dust, took a wrong turn and forgot about "slapstick," and ends up in something resembling the WeHo-esque neighborhood of Pomo Upside-down Land. But really it just annoys the audience.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend it. But I am interested to see where Nicolitch ends up 10 years from now, because, through all of this, his understanding of the basics of mad-cap and the dialogue, voice, and character-development in that genre, as well as a desire to please the audience, did shine through.