Unité Modèle (Showroom)

Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and Emilie Leclerc
Credit: Gaetan Nerincx

At Studio 16 until October 28, 2017
Tickets from $26/Student Rush $10/604-736-2616/seizieme.ca

Posted October 18, 2017

Who hasn’t bought new boots and thought, “I’m going to look so cool” (or classy or retro or whatever) “in these boots”? Like it or not, a lot of what we purchase is about the image we want to project – what the French call, c’est une façade. It’s all about the story we create about ourselves for others. Unité Modèle playwright Guillaume Corbeil admits he is “un citoyen de l’image” and he’s not alone.

Now imagine you are in the market for a condo and imagine two very hip, very persuasive sales reps – one a good-looking young guy, the other an attractive young woman. In this Théâtre La Seizième production of Unité Modèle, actors Emilie Leclerc and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin portray the marketing team for Diorama, a new luxury housing development (“an industrial pearl in a distinguished shell”). Ostensibly, the audience has come to Diorama’s showroom to hear the pitch. We are prospective buyers and if we reserve a unit this very night a whole lot of goodies will be thrown in – like moving costs and condo fees for a year. “I’d jump on it,” she advises.

Preying on our desire for a more exciting life than the one we are now living, they create a story to encourage you to buy into Diorama with its “massive wooden beams, concrete ceilings, exposed piping, big sash windows, original hardwood.” Buying a place to live in is about creating a story, they tell us, and they are here to help you create that story.

Emilie Leclerc and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin
Credit: Gaetan Nerincx

But it goes way beyond walk-in closets and granite counters; their pitch involves romance, sex and marriage. Prefacing every promise with, “You would have”, they hint at a handsome man (“He’d look like Richard Gere in ‘Days of Heaven’”, she says) or a gorgeous woman in your life. He would be clever and witty and tender and good in bed. She would be smart, sexy and turn out a fabulous osso bucco. (She even gives us the recipe and instructions.) You would drink good wine (because you know what good wine is), would drive a good car, would wear designer clothes, would go to yoga, would enjoy the outdoors – all because you are smart enough, cool enough, hip enough to buy a condo in Diorama.

Set designer Manon Veldhuis provides just a hint of the showroom unit: sliding screens to indicate the bedroom and the closet (for all the wonderful clothes and shoes you would have). And lighting designer Itai Erdal brilliantly illuminates a small, stage right mockup of the housing complex that seems, at times, to mesmerize the sales reps. It’s less like a housing complex than an altar at which these two worship and which we, too, are invited to worship.

Emilie Leclerc and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin
Credit: Emily Cooper

Leclerc and Leblanc-Beaudoin are smilingly outgoing, confident and cute together – holding hands and kissing; they perform a couple of hilarious dances to the kind of music you would dance to once ensconced in your Diorama ‘unit’.

Playwright Corbeil has us coming and going. When things start to go wrong, is this still part of the story? Will the playwright extend this story beyond romance and marriage to divorce and living alone in the condo? How many times will we fall for the story these slick marketers are spinning?

Although written in Quebec this play is all too relevant for Vancouver audiences in the present housing catastrophe. (Here, however, it’s becoming less and less about image and more and more about where the hell are we going to find a place to live?)

Directed by Philippe Cyr, Unité Modèle is smart and funny and scary at the same time. Manipulation by marketers is something we don’t want to think we succumb to nor are most of us proud of following trends. And even if we buck the trends, we know we’re projecting an image of someone who bucks trends. You just can’t win.

If you want to be seen to be really cool, cultured and bilingual, catch Unité Modèle on a Friday night when there are no English surtitles (with translation by Anita Rochon). Be sure to let your friends know you went on a Friday. Or if you just love good theatre, see Unité Modèle any other night. And let your friends know how good it is.