“The Shoplifters” filled with plenty of larceny and laughs


The Shoplifters – It’s amazing how one small thing – when taken too seriously or gets twisted way out of proportion – can erupt into a great deal of mayhem when it could have been dealt with in a more calm, rational manner.

That’s what happens when two sizeable cuts of rib steaks are discovered stolen by two women at a large Montreal supermarket (which are found, quite inconveniently, stuffed underneath their skirts). And it’s those pair of pilfered steaks that cause a whole chain of commotion between the thieving duo and the security guard team that forms the premise of Morris Panych’s tour de farce comedy The Shoplifters, which is now playing at the Centaur Theatre until April 7.

The play takes place in the back room of the supermarket, which amidst the clutter of cardboard boxes filled with such grocery items as paper towels, laundry detergent, diapers and Oreo cookies, serves as the HQ for the store’s security guards: the tired old school veteran Otto (Michel Perron) and Dom (Laurent Pitre), the rookie whose overzealous determination to catch thieves and convert them to a religious life is just as big as his two-sizes-too-big uniform. During this hectic day at the supermarket’s back room, they match wits with the two shoplifters they caught with the meaty goods: Alma (Ellen David), a tough, brassy purloiner with sharp skills when it comes to the five finger discount, and Phyllis (Marie-Eve Perron), her weepy, reluctant newbie of a partner.

The Shoplifters deftly combines broad comedy, slapstick comedy and plenty of witty repartee, as the these two pairs of characters swim in a sea of fear, frustration, irrationality, bluster and the over enthusiastic quest for law and order, as they reveal their feelings about such issues as consumerism, big business, job frustration and the ever continuing need to survive and live a good life in today’s complex world.

The quartet of actors that make up the cast of The Shoplifters is one of the best ensembles that I have seen on the Montreal theatre scene in recent years. Each one brings to the table so much talent and comic sensibilities with their respective performances, that saying Michel, Laurent, Ellen and Marie-Eve complement each other to make this an entertaining night at the theatre is indeed an understatement. And a special shout out goes to young Laurent Pitre, whose performance as Dom the over enthusiastic security guard is a bona fide scene stealer. In fact, his performance is almost reminiscent (if you’re a fan of classic TV sitcoms) of Barney Fife, the equally over enthusiastic deputy sheriff on the classic 60s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (in fact, I was waiting for Dom to show off the one bullet he keeps in his shirt breast pocket for his service revolver, just like Barney Fife did).

The Shoplifters will definitely steal a lot of laughs from you, as it’s an entertaining example of how comedy can be used to tackle so many social issues that affect us, especially when the steaks are that high. Don’t miss it!

By: Stuart Nulman – [email protected]
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