Chicago Theater Review: THE DECEMBER MAN (L’HOMME DE DÉCEMBRE) (Mary-Arrchie)

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by Lawrence Bommer on May 22, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

THE LAST VICTIMS

An urban massacre grabs headlines for days, then burns out as quickly as it erupted. There’s always the next shock of the known to deal with: Without meaning to be cruel, we move on. An aftermath drama, The December Man is Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy’s 90-minute, three-character look at what won’t fade so fast. The one-act confronts the mess that’s left. Murphy exposes the human wake following a disaster–survivor guilt, scenarios of suicide, a seemingly permanent sense of threat and vulnerability, the classic coping symptoms of PTSD, and the inability to explain the pain to anyone who wasn’t there.

Rudy Galvan and Barbara Roeder Harris in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of THE DECEMBER MAN (L’homme de Décembre) by Colleen Murphy, directed by Patrick New. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Patrick New’s concentrated staging at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company is a case history in unprocessed remorse. The tragedy from which more will come is the December 6, 1989 mass murder of 14 college women at the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal. Marc LaPine, a toxically misogynistic gunman, entered the school, divided male hostages from females, and proceeded to systematically execute the “feminists” he thought had ruined his life. He dies too but way too late.

Rudy Galvan in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of THE DECEMBER MAN (L’homme de Décembre) by Colleen Murphy, directed by Patrick New. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Spanning 1989 to 1992 to present the collateral damage from this spree killing, the “December Man” refers not to the killer but to another young man, Jean Fournier (Rudy Galvan in a devastating depiction of despair). Caught in the crossfire, this 24-year-old engineering student could only escape and call for help. Haunted by his helplessness, the broken boy turns to constructing models of buildings impervious to stress. He obsesses with learning karate so he will never again be a victim. Like a conditional survivor in Final Destination, Jean isn’t sure that he didn’t die too. Even more regret comes from knowing he was spared because of his sex. In nightmares he saves lives by growing arms and scooping up the endangered coeds, but each morning he wakes up a self-condemned failure.

Rudy Galvan and Barbara Roeder Harris in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of THE DECEMBER MAN (L’homme de Décembre) by Colleen Murphy, directed by Patrick New. Photo by Emily Schwartz

We also meet Jean’s salt-of-the-earth, blue collar parents. Through Marc they also become casualties of December 6th. A polio patient with a slight limp, the father Benoit (anguished Mike Speller) smokes, drinks, complains of the heat, and tries to restore normality (as in ice fishing) to this damaged household. (But here denial is worse than confrontation.) A cleaning lady, mother Kathleen (solidly suffering Barbara Roeder Harris) dreads every anniversary of the slaughter. Where Benoit has busted his rosary in rage, Kathleen clings to her faith, assuring Jean that “It’s not your fault” but unwilling to say it was God’s plan. In this targeted family what remains unspoken gets louder until it deafens.

Rudy Galvan and Mike Speller in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of THE DECEMBER MAN (L’homme de Décembre) by Colleen Murphy, directed by Patrick New. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

There’s nothing remarkable about these working-class, everyday Fourniers, haunted by a heroism that could never happen. But, as Murphy grimly shows us, their fates are as extreme as those of the lost ladies killed in class. What ensues–I have to stop here–feels as believable as it’s not inevitable. It’s a terrible waste and that’s judgement enough. This utterly unpretentious cautionary tale will be hemlock to optimists. For others the sheer ordinariness of the small and big talk and the humdrum domestic doings will be a turn-off. But, considering the context, this play is absolutely true to its tale.

Barbara Roeder Harris and Rudy Galvan in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.’s production of THE DECEMBER MAN (L’homme de Décembre) by Colleen Murphy, directed by Patrick New. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

photos by Emily Schwartz

The December Man (L’homme de Décembre)
Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.
Angel Island, 735 W. Sheridan Ave.
ends on June 28, 2015
for tickets, call (866) 468-3401 or visit Mary-Arrchie

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Trimble January 27, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Would you please tell me where to find the price of royalty rights for The December Man? Thank You.

Reply

Editor-in-Chief Tony Frankel January 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Currently, there is no royalty house that I can find, Jim. But you can contact playwright Colleen Murphy’s agent in Canada:

Michael Petrasek
Kensington Literary Representation
34 St. Andrew Street Toronto, ON, Canada M5T 1K6
416.848.9684 kensingtonlit@rogers.com

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