Gripping, beautiful, and thoroughly stimulating, The December Man (L’homme de Decémbre), presented by Theatre@Eastminster, is currently playing at Eastminister United Church Community Space as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Before I dive in, it is necessary to know that this venue is not air-conditioned. Though a “fleet of fans” were deployed during each set change throughout the show, the temperature in the room hovered around thirty degrees Celsius, and I was sweating the entire time. Bring a hand fan or an ice-cube filled water bottle. Other than this, I have no gripes with this show whatsoever.
Led by a consummately phenomenal cast, The December Man traverses the intangible, explosive tinderbox of grief and mental illness experienced by Jean (Jonas Trottier), a young man who was told to leave his classroom at gunpoint by Marc Lépine, the perpetrator of the mass murder now known as the Montreal Massacre. It is a richly authentic, intimately human storytelling of a family trying to grapple with the unthinkable.
This site-specific show is not only exquisitely adorned, but set in a part of Eastminister United Church that feels like it was built just to host this play. The space was utilized wonderfully: every wall, door, window, and stair were employed, absorbing the audience into a lower-class 20th century Quebec home. What struck me the most was the use of a window through the upstage-center wall that viewed the kitchen, displaying Jean’s father (Stephen Flett) and his alcoholic tendencies, as well as Jean’s mother (Kris Langille) and her frustration when she is sent to the kitchen in anger. A job seriously well done by director Jennifer Thomson and Set Designer Ron Mckay.
The set dressing, prop design, and costume design is praiseworthy as well, clearly indicating each period of the family’s life via Christmas decorations, winter coats (and lack thereof). There’s also Jean’s engineering school culminating assignment — a model of a building he drafted and erected himself, which I found the most fascinating. As another insight on the passage of time, the model is shown in various states of construction from throughout the show.
If you can stand the heat, I wholeheartedly recommend this show. Not only is it meticulously produced by a legion of extremely talented, passionate theatre people, but all proceeds support mental health initiatives. Make sure to buy ahead — the 45 cap venue sold out tonight, and as of writing, it’s only the third day of fringe.
- The December Man (L’homme de Decémbre) plays at Eastminster United Church. (310 Danforth Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; not recommended for children.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 5th, 7:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 4:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 7:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 6:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 1:00 pm
Photo of Stephen Flett and Kris Langille by Steven Nederveen.