Two men fall in love and adopt a baby in Beirut-- on stage
A gay couple who want to adopt a baby meet a woman willing to bear them a child. It’s not an altogether unusual setup – except in Lebanon, where homosexual acts are illegal and adoption isn’t an option for gay couples. Jean and Quentin are the gay pair whose urge to raise a baby is the driving force behind “Une Envie Folle,” (A Wild Desire), a Paris-based comedy currently on show at the Monnot Theater. Written by a team of four – Fabrice Blind, Michel Delgado, Carole Fonfria and Nelly Marre – the piece is performed by Beirut-born Tania Assi, along with Blind and Cedric Clodic.
The play is a lighthearted, farcical exploration of the dynamics between Quentin (Blind) and Jean (Clodic), and their reactions to the pretty, vivacious Juliette (Assi), who having met Quentin on the Internet offers to act as a surrogate for the couple’s child.
The play marks a return visit to Beirut and the Monnot Theater for Assi and Blind, who together performed their hit show “Mon Colocataire est une Garce” (My Flatmate is a Bitch), last December.
“Une Envie Folle” is uninterested in exploring the complexities of issues such as adoption, same-sex parenting or surrogacy. Instead Blind and Co. use this well-worn premise to launch into a comedy of errors, replete with puns, word play and concealed identity.
The action takes place on a single set, the couple’s living room, which consists of a carefully arranged display of a sleek suite of black-and-white designer furniture, accented with splashes of bright color – a vase of deep pink roses on the striped sideboard and two shocking pink satin cushions on the otherwise pristine black sofa.
Quentin presents the weather on MTV, while Jean is a policeman, or “profiler” as he likes to call himself in outrageously accented English. As the setting suggests the pair are a cliched caricature of a gay couple, whose shirts run the gamut of colors from pink to mauve to orange and whose dialogue consists of bickering accusations of infidelity and snide comments about each other’s shortcomings, murmured at a calculated volume that ensures they hit home.
In spite of the profound superficiality of the characters, the performances are enjoyable, with well-timed delivery, believable displays of catty neurosis from Clodic and some wonderful physical comedy from Blind – who, upon learning that he has fathered a child on the first attempt, conveys his ecstasy of masculine pride to hilarious effect with a performance of orgiastic hip-thrusting.
Juliette’s character is slightly more complex – a lesbian charity worker always dressed impeccably in barely there dresses and precipitous high heels, she claims to have spent time in Calcutta founding a school for 5,000 local children but turns out to be on the run from the law, much to the chagrin of Jean, “the profiler.”
In spite of the character’s more complex backstory, Assi represents her as somewhat two-dimensional – a vapid, manipulative airhead out to achieve her own ends.
The production is relentlessly camp, with each scene change accompanied by bursts of ABBA. When caught in flagrante delicto, Quentin and Juliette try to throw Jean off the scent of their betrayal by dancing at the edge of the stage Village People-fashion, with Quentin in his boxers, a T-shirt and long gray socks, Juliette in her rumpled black mini dress.
The play’s physical comedy is accompanied by a string of one-liners, delivered with well-judged timing that renders them chuckle- rather than cringe-worthy.
At one point, Jean offers Juliette a drink – “Ceylon, Earl Grey, Jasmine?”
“No thanks,” Juliette replies, “I’ll just have a tea.”
It may not be Oscar Wilde, but it raises a good laugh from the audience, as does Quentin’s assertion that he jogs every morning – to catch the bus.
Choreographed to near-dance-like precision in places, the production is tightly assembled and well-rehearsed. In one effective scene, all three characters receive calls on their mobile phones, and their one-sided dialogues come together to form a surreal sequence, as Quentin learns that his mother has run off, Juliette tells a friend about her pregnancy and Jean discusses a case with a fellow copper.
“Une Envie Folle” succeeds in being very silly for long periods of time, but enjoyably so. While it will win no prizes for introspection or originality, those who enjoy rom-coms for their simple humor, well-timed slapstick and inevitable happy ending will come away well-pleased.
“Une Envie Folle” is showing at the Monnot Theater until June 5. Tickets are available in advance from Librairie Antoine or on the door. For more information please call 01-202-422.