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LILIES, a tale of misguided love at convergence continuum

LILIES, a tale of misguided love at convergence continuum 

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

French Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s LILIES, with the subtitle “the Revival of a Romantic Drama,”  is a moralistic melodrama which is now in production at convergence-continuum.  The author’s best known work, it was recognized in 1992 as the best Canadian play.  It was transformed into the movie LILIES, which won the Genie (the equivalent of the American Oscar) for the best film of 1996.

Set in 1952, in the church of a prison where the jailed Simon Doucet has requested his boyhood friend, Jean Bilodeau, who is now a Bishop, come to hear his confession.  In reality, what Bilodeau is to participate in, is a re-enactment of an event that took place on an Autumn evening in 1912, when Bilodeau caused the death of Count Vallier De Tilly, Simon’s male lover.

In acting out the happenings, Simon is hoping that Bilodeau will confess his role in Vallier’s demise, which resulted in Simon’s wrongful imprisonment.

The play within the play, and the play, itself, comes to a climax which, as in most melodramas, allows for the “bad guy” to come to some level of awareness and repent.

The play, typical of much gay theater, tells a morally simplistic story in overwrought terms.  Simon and Vallier, as the gay young lovers, are meant to be interesting, because they are going against the grain of socially acceptable manners of the day, not because they are fascinating people.  The many town folk are stereotypically homophobic, causing the plot to evolve.  There is no surprise ending as the outcome is obvious from the start.  It includes the almost obligatory full frontal male nude scene.

The format of the play forces men to take the parts of the women, as the only actors available are the prison inmates, and younger actors to portray the roles of Simon, Bilodeau and Vallier, as youth.

Con-con’s production, under the direction of Tyson Douglas Rand, is true to the intent of the script.  Rand keeps the cast under control, making sure the males who play females aren’t overly flamboyant in their approaches, and makes the characters as rational as the script allows.

Both Bobby Coyne (young Simon) and Jack Matuszewski (young Vallier) create appealing characters.  They have a nice sensual connection.

Clyde Simon controls the tendency to be overwrought and affected as psychotic Countess de Tilly and creates a sympathetic character.  Though he has a tendency to be overly effeminate, Eric Sever develops the younger Bilodeau into a despicable jealous and revengeful teenager.  The rest of the cast is effective.

Capsule Judgement: LILIES is the type of script that should appeal to con-cons niche audience.  The production works well in the small intimate theatre and is nicely directed by Tyson Douglas Rand. 

LILIES runs through November 2 at 8 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.