Thursday, March 29, 2012



On the way home from the theatre I stopped at the liquor store to buy a four pack of vodka coolers. Silently waxing nostalgic on my last trip to Vegas to see Elton I encouraged myself to indulge in a little Smirnoff induced glee. Having just been to the opening night of Bliss at Buddies, a theatre that differs from Caesar's Palace in one crucial way - they don't let you take a bucket of Budweiser cans to your seat with you - I was in the mood for a cheap nightcap of the chilly kind. I've never seen Celine at the palace but I wonder if her fans also get to indulge in an iconic brand of American booze while they sit and adore her. I sure hope so.

If Salvador Dali had lived to paint a mural in the lobby of the theatre built for Celine Dion, only a limousine ride away from her palatial custom built home, it might have looked like the text of Bliss sounds. It would have moved in and out of desert locales with babies melting into the landscape and the outline of Walmarts would have marked a burning horizon. Inverted lips, inside out skeletons, fleur-de-lis, and cracked maple leaves might have littered the foreground. But it was not meant to be. Instead we have the beautifully written, surreal, poetic seventy-minute long performance/play currently running at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. For half-crazed fans and mordant detractors this is a fine example of ensemble acting that elevates the cult of the Dion phenomenon to new and staggering heights of real and imagined devotion.

Olivier Choinière’s script, translated by Caryl Churchill and brought to life under the sharply conceived and stylish direction of Steven McCarthy, reads like a narrative long poem for four voices in search of a plot. Delphine Bienvenu, Jean Robert Bourdage, Trent Pardy, and France Rolland deliver layered and passionate performances as they create an ensemble of images and narrative strands that are at once harrowing, beautiful, comical, moving, and absurd. Set and costume design by James Lavoie creates a glistening, uniform brand of intrigue that unfolds by the end of the piece and plants the audience firmly within the realm of the ordinary and the sublime.

I am one of those people who claims to love Celine, rarely listens to her music, defends her with an embarrassed ambivalence, and is half-ashamed to admit to any of this. Now that I have seen Bliss I love her a little less, but not much less. In my vodka infused icepack of chilled, distilled, and unfulfilled emotion she remains an icon to be reckoned with from a part of culture that high society seems to have disengaged from a very long time ago, leaving her and her loved ones alone in a series of mirage-like tableaus, ensconced within a posh, seemingly blissful Mojave compound (or an island in Laval) and surrounded by the spoils of millions of fans, and millions - upon millions - of dollars.


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