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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Theatre review: Unité Modèle gets repetitive

In our desire to have, do we lose sight of what really matters?

There is nothing wrong with being reminded of our sometimes-blinding Western avarice. In Guillaume Corbeil’s Unité Modèle though, the reminder becomes repetitive.

Corbeil’s two-hander is built around the premise we have gathered at the presentation centre for a new upscale condo development. But even as we are relentlessly told we can buy our way into the dream, there are other layers at work. As we continue to listen to the sales pitch, it isn’t long before we realize not everything is as it seems.

As the would-be sales representatives, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Emilie Leclerc do a nice job of appealing to our desires. Not only are they trying to sell us on the condo, they are selling us on a feeling, feeding our insatiable appetite to keep up with the Joneses.

That superficiality soon gives way to the real-life impact it can have on our relationships, and perhaps more importantly, on ourselves. In our desire to have what we think will provide us with happiness, are we so blinded by the quest we lose sight of what really matters?

Blurring the lines at every opportunity, Corbeil’s sometimes complex approach to these issues in Unité Modèle is head spinning.

As intriguing as it sounds, Corbeil repeats himself. While it can be argued there is a head/heart disconnect between desire/need, Corbeil spends too much time on the aspirational end of the spectrum. With fragments of humanity repeatedly interrupted by the consumer mentality, the access points are fleeting. It isn’t until the final fifteen minutes where we find its heart, and even then Corbeil is relentless.

While Unité Modèle is intended as parody or satire, it never moves from its central premise enough to sustain. While we can recognize the ridiculousness of the over-the-top sales pitch and its human impact, it is so persistent it loses any lasting impact. It is like watching Weird Al Yankovic on a loop; it is fun the first couple of times, but then it starts to get annoying.

The production values in Unité Modèle are top-notch. Under the technical direction of Jeremy Blaxter, Manon Veldhuis’ set design, Itai Erdal’s lighting, and Cande Andrade’s video are cohesive, leaving us with little doubt we are in a high-end sales centre.

Admittedly, part of the issue may be in my inability to watch Unité Modèle in its original French. Relying on Anita Rochon’s English surtitles, maybe some of it is not only lost in translation, but in the subtleties of language itself.

Unité Modèle by Guillaume Corbeil. Directed by Philippe Cyr. A Théâtre la Seizième production. In French and presented with English surtitles on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. On stage at Studio 16 (1545 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver) until October 28. Visit for tickets and information.

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