HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The Closet (Le Placard): Francois Pignon should've been King Kong's bride


by Drew Rowsome -
Photos y Marc Lemyre


Actors who try to play gay are usually cheap and vulgar. Just be as you are.

The Closet (Le Placard) zips along with a farcical grace that skims over the central question of which is worse: homophobia or political correctness? Playwright Francis Veber, most renowned for being one of the four screenwriters who created La Cage Aux Folles, settles for gently satirizing both and keeps the proceedings light despite some very dark events and undertones.

Francois Pignon is a non-descript accountant who works in a rubber factory that mainly produces condoms. His life is a mess, mainly because he is so boring and bourgeois. He is driven to attempt suicide when he loses his job to downsizing. If not for the intervention of his new neighbour, the delightful René Lemieux putting a mature and grounded spin on the stock character of the wacky but wise gay neighbour, Pignon would lie splattered beneath his window. That Lemieux has ulterior motives of his own is sadly glossed over, probably to avoid any hint of, despite them being my favourite aspirational cliché, a stock vengeful gay villain.

Lemieux convinces the gullible Pignon to pose as a gay man so that, as a representative of a condom factory, it will become a political problem if he is fired. Pignon reluctantly agrees and the farce begins. Turns out that gay is not always so bad, in fact in Veber's world it is fascinating and fun if drained of any sexual content. Suddenly Pignon is living the life he always wanted and his co-workers and family learn to see the simple man's virtues, including his previously oddly overlooked pert derriere.

The Closet is presented in French and while the surtitles are helpful (for those of us who don't use our French enough to even approach bilinguality) they are also distracting and caused me to miss a lot of the subtleties that the actors put into their performances (and I suspect I was already missing a lot of linguistic, and hilarious, subtleties). When just watching Pierre Simpson - a very wide-eyed, bumbling and sweetly sexy Pignon - the deliberately blank character became human and roils with comic panic and emotion. Though Pignon is bumbling and painfully nervous, it is inconceivable that no-one in the office was attracted to his obvious Gallic charm and physical appeal until they assumed he was gay.

The surtitles do, as Simpson suggests, make Le Placard as accessible to non-Francophones as a foreign film. Which brings up the only other problem with The Closet: it was originally a film and is still a lot of short scenes strung together with awkward semi-blackouts interspersed. A few times the blackouts are used to advance the action and provide commentary, but mostly they just puncture the effervescence. Perhaps Veber and director Guy Mignault should have attempted a re-envisioning instead of just a recreation.

All of the characters do terrible things and all of the actors apply charm to earn forgiveness and keep the comic energy spinning. Particularly delightful is Christian Laurin as Felix Santini, the rugby-playing HR manager whose hyper-masculinity is - surprise!/spoiler alert! - a closet of his own. Laurin applies a twinkle in his eyes, a deep desperation, and one party trick that earned applause and much laughter, to turn a caricature into a blustering buffoon complementary to Simpson's passive Pignon. The balance is so delicate that when Pignon is disgusted by Santini's clumsy inadvertent (?) advances and states that he does not see himself as "King Kong's bride," it hurt more (though we all laughed) than all the slurs of "fag" and "sissy" and "homo" that had preceded.

While The Closet is a trifle, safe for all sensibilities, it is a treat to enjoy a mainstream, I can easily picture it in a dinner or community theatre setting, play where gay is the reward and solution rather than the tragic flaw. Lemieux, the wise older gay elder, says when Pignon is gay-bashed, "I didn't think that still happened," and for a brief shining moment the comedy stops, the central dilemma snaps into focus, and we pause before The Closet continues on its giddy way. But at least we know, amidst the laughter, that homophobia is definitely worse.

The Closet continues until Sun, May 29 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. The surtitled version is on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. theatrefrancais.com 


16

 

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct - '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct - '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep - '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep - '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep - '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep - '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep - '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul - '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul - '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul - '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun - '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun - '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun - '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May - '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May - '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May - '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11