Review: Cinematic portraits of Love in Artiste Inconnu’s “Mythomania”

Nicolas Berzi's contemporary creation runs at La Chapelle through November 25th

Photo: Justine Latour

Love is without a doubt the most frequently explored theme in all existing art. On every part of the globe, for as long as people have walked the Earth, the topic has been relentlessly poked and prodded by scholars and poets alike. One might think there is little left to add to the conversation, but Nicolas Berzi’s Mythomania proves the opposite. Combining theatre, music and audiovisual performance, Berzi’s latest creation adds its own unique layers to the old-as-time question: what is Love? Layering atomic reaction facts, Soulmate theory, and the story of two lovers who share a name and a need, Mythomania is an intelligent and compelling piece in which all romantic relationships are called into question.

Photo: Justine Latour

“Mythomania” is defined as an “abnormal or pathological tendency of lying and exaggerating. The mythomaniac has problems distinguishing reality from imaginary. This phenomenon appears as a normal phase for children and usually disappears naturally”. Here, Berzi highlights the many ways in which a person in love is strikingly similar to a grandiosity-stricken child: their lack of sight, the way they idealize, romanticize, interpret everything as some sort of “sign”… Lovers are always lying, mostly to themselves – not out of denial or spite, but rather in a genuine belief that their thoughts and feelings are true. Much like a child, the lover believes in the fiction their mind invents: one of bliss and permanence, unchanging and uncomplicated. Statistically however, the chances of two “soulmates” crossing paths is one in ten thousand – pretty good odds for a photon, but rather grim ones for a person. Throughout Mythomania, as the concept of Love is thoroughly analyzed, dissected and reframed before our eyes, a rather bleak truth comes to light: love – though unquestionably real and scientifically probable – is not designed to be attainable for humankind.

Photo: Justine Latour

Bringing this solo piece to life is Livia Sassoli, a captivating performer, a woman of many faces and talents. Her piercing gaze is repeatedly projected everywhere on stage, creating a collage of all the expressions that make up a life. The petty and dramatic teenager who seeks attention through social media, the grown and learned woman who hides behind the spectacle of her own wedding, the child internalizing the misleading romances painted in her bedtime stories, the girl who longs for and yet dreads the kiss that wakes the sleeper and ends the dream – Sassoli is all of these people; a woman in love, a woman in doubt, and a living embodiment of the reality that the two are all too often one and the same.

Jean-François Boisvenue’s set is simplistic yet grand. His projection work is truly exceptional, and hauntingly supported by Simon Chioini’s sound design. Mythomania also features solo piano compositions by Chioini; some are simple and repetitive note patterns, others are unsettling series of dissonant chords, and all are beautifully hypnotic. It is perhaps worth noting that Berzi’s text is in French; granted, the piece is highly cinematic and visually stunning – and one could deem it worth seeing for that alone – but the text too is rich, poetic, and a shame to be missed out on by a potential non-French-speaking audience member.

Photo: Justine Latour

The idea that love is merely a set of chemical reactions in the brain is pretty disappointing, the theory according to which the vast majority of romantic relationships are doomed to fail is far from encouraging, and most of all the statistical evidence that love is in fact out there, just not within human reach, is quite a painful stab to the proverbial heart. Mythomania distills love into a rather negative set of facts, and yet a hopeful message shines through: still, we love. Somehow, across this vast wasteland of time and space, despite the odds forever stacked against us, we manage find one another and connect in a way that defies all science and logic. It well may be that a “doomed” and “temporary” love is the best we can hope for, but if it feels real and permanent while it’s happening, maybe that’s all that matters.

Artiste Inconnu presents Mythomania
When: November 16-25, 2017
Where: Théâtre La Chapelle, 3700 Saint-Dominique
Duration: 1h20 (no intermission)
Admission: Regular 15 – 30$

Violette Kay

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