Chlorine at Centaur Theatre – Montreal

Creature/Creature’s Chlorine Slays, Theatre Blogger Deceased

Just a quick public announcement that I am dead and writing from beyond the grave after having seen this show at Centaur Theatre. Chlorine, part-play-part-ballet, was originally written and choreographed by Florence Longpré and Nicolas Michon in French, and this production was translated into English and directed by Johanna Nutter.

Narrated by teenager Nathan (a bumbling, fast-talking Augustus Rivers), it tells the story of Sarah Campbell (Cat Lemieux), paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak after being force-fed chlorine as a kid, and Nathan’s burgeoning friendship with her. It also paints a portrait of Sarah’s parents: Meredith (Linda Smith), her self-sacrificing mother, and Raymond (Brian Wright), her father frustrated by his daughter’s condition.

The ballet comes in with Mélanie Lebrun, Catherine Gonthrier, and Érika Morin, who, as Nathan explains, turn into set pieces and stage hands to aid in the transitions. Their light, fairy-like dance balances Sarah’s lack of movement and is juxtaposed next to the harsh, often uncomfortable reality of disability. Chlorine refuses to sugar-coat as the ideal of the ballerinas becomes lost in the real world of the story. Despite its fast pace, the play allows the audience time to observe and be forced to face this reality that able-bodied people often choose to ignore in their daily lives.

The performers were simply incredible and led with agility by Rivers, who is the quintessential awkward teenager trying to figure out how the world works. Sometimes obscene but always endearing, he mirrors the audience as he grows fond of Sarah. Smith also shines as the mother, a busybody who wants what’s best for her daughter but becomes overwhelmed by the toll the condition takes on the family.

Not for the faint of heart, Chlorine is sweet, sad, funny, and most of all surprising. Running time is one hour and a half. With only two performances left (Friday evening and Saturday matinee), you need to RUN to get tickets to this show, which are $25 for students and seniors and $28 for adults.

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