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Rage Takes the Stage in France

Rage Takes the Stage in France


There is anger on display, too, in the director Vincent Macaigne’s “Je suis un pays” (“I Am a Country”) — but too often, it feels manufactured. At 38, Mr. Macaigne has acquired a following in France with loud, flamboyant productions, from his 2009 “Hamlet” to the Dostoyevsky-inspired “Idiot! Because We Should Have Loved Each Other.” With “Je suis un pays,” his latest creation, he pitches himself as the voice of his generation in a world that is, according to the program notes, “torn between immobilism and dissatisfaction.”

Unfortunately, onstage, that voice is more Hannah Horvath from “Girls” than Virginie Despentes. “Je suis un pays,” which Mr. Macaigne also wrote, is a confused, indulgent postapocalyptic tale. The audience is ushered into the auditorium by actors claiming that a catastrophe has just wiped out the world; what’s left appears to be a nightclub, as Fun’s “We Are Young” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” greet us inside. (Earplugs are provided.)

Over three and a half hours, “Je suis un pays” swings wildly between full-on dance parties and a meandering narrative. The initial scenes hint at a fertility crisis, in a cross between “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the Bible: The heroine, Marie, is graphically raped by an angel and supposed to give birth to a prophet. She hides the baby, and we hear no more of that story line for two hours, as Marie’s brother Eddie gains political power and becomes a dictator.

Unfortunately, Mr. Macaigne is as unsubtle a playwright as he is a director. He trades in exclamation points and grand pronouncements: “The new language, that will be us! The future, that will be us! Us!” Marie is made to shout at the top of her lungs. “And if it’s not us, everything will go down the drain!”

“Je suis un pays” has every theatrical effect in the book — smoke, strobe lighting, a pool of water, fake blood, amplified sound with added echo — as well as a production within the production: Adventurous audience members can opt to attend “Voilà ce que jamais je ne te dirai” (“Here Is What I Will Never Tell You”), a parallel performance during which spectators don spacesuits, walk into the main auditorium two hours into “Je suis un pays” and sit in separate rows of seats at the rear of the stage for the remainder of the evening. (With the abridged running time, they probably get the better deal.)

Mr. Macaigne appears to be targeting a younger audience, and in fairness, the teenagers in attendance at the Théâtre de la Colline responded enthusiastically, dancing along whenever prompted and joining the cast onstage for a bloody, mock reality-TV show that Eddie stages to shore up his power. Still, over-the-top angst goes only so far before straining credibility; in this case, it’s a wonder the valiant actors hadn’t lost their voices by the end. Sound and fury is no bad thing, but only when it signifies something.



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