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Celles d’en Haut
a Comedy
by Olivier Kemeid

COMPANY : Théâtre du Ręve [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 4777

SHOWING : September 10, 2015 - September 20, 2015



Written by Olivier Kemeid (Montreal), directed by Olivier Coyette (Brussels), and inspired by Dante’s "Inferno," Thomas Mann’s "The Magic Mountain," and film stills by Cindy Sherman, the play is set in an “establishment” on an isolated mountaintop. "Celles d’en haut" celebrates women of all ages and the dynamics of their relationships, and with a wicked sense of humor gives us space to question: Who are we when removed from the context of our lives? CdH gives Atlanta audiences the opportunity to see a piece that involves artists from different countries and artistic backgrounds, giving our audiences an opportunity to see the evolution of the project over three years.

Violet Carolyn Cook
Mary Jane/Sarah Park Krausen
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The Women on the Upper Floors
by playgoer
Friday, September 11, 2015
"Celles d’en Haut" has a double meaning in French that isn’t truly captured by the English title, "Women on Top." The story, such as it is, concerns Violet (Carolyn Cook), who has had a minor car accident, can’t get cell reception, and wanders into the woods looking for help. She stumbles across what seems to be an asylum, in which women ("celles d’en haut") scream in pain on the upper floors, and in which she is placed for observation. Her surreally French absurdist time there is sparked by her relationships with Virgilia (Natalie Karp), who acts as a sort of guide, and Mary Jane (Park Krausen), who seems to be reliving the Great Chicago Fire. When Mary Jane’s parents take her home, Virgilia and Violet take a trip to rescue her.

The production is highly visual, probably in part to rise above language barriers. The play takes place on a stage with not-quite-translucent plastic panels upon which videos are projected, almost non-stop. Televisions on either side of the stage play video snippets too, some of which are duplicated on the panels. Live video feed from a hand-held cellphone also appears on the panels. When the panels are raised, another set of projections are seen against the far wall. Mike Tutaj’s video and projection design, Preston Goodson’s sound design, Kat Conley’s set design, Danyale Taylor’s props, and Mike Morin’s lighting design work together to create an immersive environment into which a couple of audience members are drawn for a short segment. At least at the French performances, supertitles add to the visual overload (except during the Italian lines from Dante’s "Inferno").

The show starts with an extended, wordless bunny chase sequence, in which an intern dressed in a pink rabbit suit (Maia Moore) is variously imitated and chased by the other members of the cast. There are a lot of segments like that, with dancing and singing and overall cavorting. Even some dialogue scenes are backed by unrelated activity, such as the sole male in the cast (Kevin McCoy) doing fencing moves while the women converse. Olivier Coyette’s direction often has repetitive movements echoed by multiple people onstage, making the stage picture entertaining purely on a visual level. Kristin Butler’s role in the ensemble is primarily visual, with most of her dialogue repetitions of Mr. McCoy’s.

Summaries of the action are provided three times during the running time. The first is all in French (at least at French performances). The second is a gag, with summaries given of several classic plays by the actors. The last is a summary in English read by the intern, which goes on a little long and seems a little flat. The evening is as understandable as an exercise in French absurdism allows.

The performances are all good. Park Krausen does wonderful work summoning up the Great Chicago Fire, and Carolyn Cook captures the confusion of a sane woman treated as insane. Natalie Karp does fine work in multiple roles, as does the energetic Kevin McCoy (although his strong American accent quickly becomes grating in his French dialogue). The directorial touch of Olivier Coyette is pretty heavy, though, so some of the ever-present action doesn’t necessarily ring true. Still, lots of effort is expended to keep the action moving non-stop, making this an easy show to sit through (once the interminable opening chase concludes). [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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