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We don’t need to give you the hard sell when it comes to Unité Modèle: if the cen­tral con­ceit isn’t timely enough, ac­tors Vin­cent Le­blanc-beau­doin and Em­i­lie Le­clerc are ready to make you an of­fer you can’t refuse.

In Guil­laume Cor­beil’s script, the two have been tasked with sell­ing a new condo devel­op­ment, and in Théâtre la Seiz­ième’s pro­duc­tion, the set is an im­mac­u­lately “staged” demon­stra­tion apart­ment. The Québé­cois play might be per­formed en français—with English sur­titles on se­lect nights—but the setup screams Van­cou­ver.

“I cer­tainly didn’t have to make any adap­ta­tions to the script,” says direc­tor Philippe Cyr, who’s helm­ing the two-han­der. “It’s crazy, be­cause Em­i­lie, one of the ac­tors, she lives here, and all the team also, so we have con­ver­sa­tions about the script, and all the team felt it was re­ally close to the sit­u­a­tion here. I mean, it’s bet­ter to show this play in Van­cou­ver than in Mon­treal, be­cause the prob­lem here is huge. And it’s an es­pe­cially big is­sue for artists; hous­ing is so ex­pen­sive that a lot of artists have to move away, par­tic­u­larly if they have kids. From what I hear, it seems dif­fi­cult to live in Van­cou­ver.”

As with Van­cou­ver’s un­de­ni­ably out-of-con­trol real-es­tate market, there’s more going on in Unité Modèle than ini­tially meets the eye. “Je suis un citoyen de l’image,” play­wright Cor­beil has said, pro­fess­ing that he’s es­sen­tially a crea­ture of the me­dia en­vi­ron­ment. Not sur­pris­ingly, his play is all about what we do to con­vince oth­ers that we are the best pos­si­ble ver­sions of our­selves—in love, in busi­ness, and at play.

“We are al­ways try­ing to reach our best self and present it to the world,” Cyr says in a postre­hearsal tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with the Straight. “We’re try­ing to get the best apart­ment; we’re try­ing to get the best couch, the best kitchen with the best ma­te­ri­als. We’re try­ing to get the best boyfriend, girl­friend, wife, hus­band—and we want to have the best dog, too.”

The French have a phrase for this kind of pro­jec­tion: c’est une façade. But façades are rarely built to last, and the front that the two per­form­ers pro­ject dur­ing the first part of Unité Modèle even­tu­ally comes crash­ing down. Per­haps wisely, Cyr avoids going into the de­tails. “Maybe I will keep that in­for­ma­tion for us,” he says, laugh­ing. “But at the end of the show you are not sure what you have seen—which part was real and which part was fake. Those two sales­men are so good at their job, so when they talk about their real lives, is it in the script? Is it a sales pitch, or is it their real lives? It’s al­ways mixed up, so at the end of the show you have many op­tions. The au­di­ence will have to find their own an­swers, and start a di­a­logue with them­selves to know what is the truth.”

One thing Unité Modèle is not, Cyr adds, is di­dac­tic. “It’s funny; some­times it’s very funny, like a com­edy show,” he says. “But un­der that funny feel­ing there’s a big drama. You never have one layer; you al­ways have at least two lay­ers, or three or four. Guil­laume Cor­beil did an amaz­ing job with this, and it’s a plea­sure to work on such a well-writ­ten play.”

Unité Modèle runs at Stu­dio 16 from Tues­day (Oc­to­ber 17) to Oc­to­ber 28.

Unité Modèle,

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