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Bruce Hunter, Annie Lefebvre, Jeff Meadows and Kevin Hanchard. Photo credit: Steve Boyton for Paul Toogood Photography.
Bruce Hunter, Annie Lefebvre, Jeff Meadows and Kevin Hanchard. Photo credit: Steve Boyton for Paul Toogood Photography.

Theatre review: "Coma Unplugged" at the GCTC in Ottawa

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The world premiere of the English translation of Coma Unplugged runs at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa through December 14. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has this review

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

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Although COMA UNPLUGGED by Pierre-Michel Tremblay is billed as a comedy, most of the humor seems to have been lost in translation.  Directed and translated by Micheline Chevier, the play follows the musings of Daniel, a self-loathing newspaper humorist who is comatose following an accident.  As he examines his life we meet his mother, his estranged wife, a childhood friend, an African warrior and a couple of disembodied voices including that of Stephen Hawking.

As played by Bruce Hunter, Daniel gives us nothing to like, laugh at or sympathize with.  There's not much humor in his one-note sour depression.  As a matter of fact, all the characters come off as flat and one dimensional with no real relationship with Daniel or each other.  The one exception is the excellent Mary Ellis as his mother, who brings humanity and warmth to the proceedings and sparks a nice exchange with Kevin Hanchard as Ishouad.

I realized about halfway through the 90 minute running time that most of my attention was on the technical aspects of the production, which are very good.  Yannik Larivee has designed a very interesting set consisting primarily of grayish-white boxes of various sizes stacked in various configurations.  It's fascinating to watch the changes in the shapes and shadows of this angular landscape caused by Jock Munro's excellent lighting.  John Millard's music and sound are terrific as well.  When I checked my notes, I found that I'd written "great sound" three different times.

With an award-winning play so highly regarded in French, I can only surmise that the problem with this production lies both in the translation and direction.  I assume it was Miss Chevrier's decision to play the characters one dimensional since they're appearing in Daniel's coma.  It doesn't work, though, as they only become uninteresting. 

Four chuckles do not a comedy make.  In other words, it's an interesting idea that's neither funny nor serious - just flat.

On a scale of one to five the GCTC production of COMA UNPLUGGED gets two and seven-eighths solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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