(Boston) Lemieux Pilon 4D Art’s La Belle et la Bête (The Beauty and the Beast) is a masterpiece in technical design. The entire team draws from tradition as well as modern (pop culture) references to create this multi-disciplinary performance piece. This is easily the most awe-inspiring, visually stunning productions you will see all year.
Belle (Benedicte Decary) is a trust-fund artist who has lost her mother in a tragic accident and imbeds her psychoses into her work. She meets The Beast through her absent father. She wants to paint him and he’s a lonely man so he lets her do so for a price. They become friends and through his love and her laughter they transform each other. Their willful actions are narrated by The Lady (Diane D’Aquila). The three determine who the monster really is with aid from virtual characters The Sister (Anne-Marie Cadieux) and The Demon (Peter James).
If you have gone to the movies to see a Blockbuster in the past three years, you are aware that there is a vogue on for 3-D movies. If you follow rap/pop music, you may be aware that Tupac came back from the dead*** to perform as a “hologram” at Coachella last summer. It was a big deal. People buzzed about it for months. If you aren’t involved in either sub-cultures, please know that interactive, ultra-realistic media is huge right now and this Hollywood trend isn’t going anywhere. For these reasons, Belle/Bête is a delicious shock to the system. If it hasn’t already, this production should influence Boston area theater. The production seamlessly weaves optical illusions into its minimal physical set design, character roster and rich lighting design while maintaining its status as a work of art. It creates the same effect on stage as a green screen does in a movie. It’s beautiful.
Illusions aside, the play/script is very simple. This production borrows from the well-known fairytale but is more Brothers Grimm/Grimm (now on NBC) than Disney in its interpretation. Many of the scene pictures are derived from the classic painting “The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli (1741–1825). Some are reminiscent of the Ridley Scott cult-classic, “Legend.”
The actors interact with holograms as if the holograms were physically on the stage. In a segment in which The Beast (Vincent Leclerc, who is quite charismatic despite his character’s deformities) battles with his former, more attractive self. The staging looks like a sculpted dance of light and shadow – an appropriate visual metaphor for The Beast’s battle with his inner demons. It was overwhelmingly gorgeous.
Dramatically, the production falters. The actors appear to have Shakespearean training stage – which shows through in the more serious moments. They stand, gesture and walk as if they were invoke The Bard. When the scenes are intended to be lighthearted, this same Shakespearean tinge creates unintentional comedy. For example, Shakespeare didn’t write a love drunk scene involving LSD tea but if he had, he wouldn’t have written it with as much severity as the actors portrayed it.
Above all, this production is a rollercoaster for the eyes and the emotions. It is not necessarily intended to stimulate the brain. It may suit the audience member to simply enjoy the visual spectacle rather than to glean any nuanced meaning from the performance. Other depictions of the Beauty and her Beast exist in the lexicon of pop and classical culture that offer more insight to the human condition, the meaning of beauty, etc. This production pushes the envelope regarding stagecraft; it should be more than enough for an evening’s enjoyment at the theater.
Lastly , A warning for the prudish: There is partial female nudity. Out of all the partials a woman has, the audience only sees two of the more popular ones.
***There are some who believe that Tupac is still alive. Let them believe what they must, the poor dears.