(re)discover Theatre presents the World Premiere of LES INNOCENTS/THE INNOCENTS.
LES INNOCENTS takes place at the Preston Bradley Center. Upon arrival on the fourth floor, a greeter encourages you to pick between a ‘love’ or ‘loneliness’ button. On the staircase, a fortune teller is reading palms -above and a duo is singing songs – below. Audience members stoop and lean in the small reception area. The real experience starts when Gui (played by Emilie Modaff) begs the gypsy to help them contact their dead lover. The gypsy gives them the recipe to wake the dead. We then follow Modaff into the Paris Catacombs.
The preliminary vibe is spooky. I’m standing in this makeshift corridor as Modaff confronts Jacques, a crypt keeper (played by the noteworthy Amanda Foreman). Modaff wants Foreman to help find the deceased Mathilde. I’m half listening to their discussion because I’m waiting for something to pop out of the darkness to scare me. I imagined this was a theatrical style haunted house. It really isn’t. It’s performance art.
Modaff leads the audience into a large space and performs the candle burning incantation. It awakens a myriad of ghosts from different French eras. The audience is standing among a dozen or so zombies. The dead are shaking off the slumber in what I’ll describe as a freestyle zumba zombie class. It peaks my curiosity. The ghosts assemble a semi-circle of chairs for the audience to sit in for the remainder of the show.
Inspired by a real concert that took place in the Paris Catacombs in 1896, Creator and Director Ann Kreitman tells the story of love, loss and death. The primary story is Ghi’s obsession in finding Mathilde (played by Vahishta Vafadari). Before the lovers are reunited, the ensemble of ghosts share snippets of their lives and deaths. An entertainingly eccentric Foreman is tormented by a map. A soldier wants to know if the French won the war. A priest preaches for the salvation of their souls. A folksy duo strum their guitars to lighten the mood. The others lament regret about their past selfs.
Although the premise is intriguing, the storytelling gets long-winded and repetitive in places. Modaff continuously announces leaving the group to find Mathilde but never does. There are several chase scenes for a candle. The tedium of the repeated words or actions pulls me out of the catacombs and puts me on a hard folding chair. LES INNOCENTS would have been better served as a 45-60 minute tighter production.
Still, LES INNOCENTS/THE INNOCENTS is a creative exploration of life after suicide. The jewel of this show is a fantastic choreographed number by Mary O’Rourke. The ensemble comes to life -literally- in a lively, perfectly synchronized movement. The energy of the dance is a playful expression of ghouls-just-want-to-have-fun.
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At The Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence
Created and directed by Ann Kreitman
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 8 p.m.
Tickets at rediscovertheatre.com/the-innocents.
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