I met Al Lafrance way back in the summer of 2011 at the Victoria Fringe Festival. I was there to review it for ye olde Visitorium, while he was there to cover it for his own Montreal-based Theatre blog, Bloody Underrated. We were just a couple of lovable dorks who loved Fringe theatre, so it isn’t too much of a surprise that we both ended up (mostly) ending our bloggery days and moving into the performance side of Theatre. I’m happy to report that Al has stayed the course like a champ, thriving and earning a solid rep as a touring Fringe artist and storyteller with his self-run company Thunder Blunder. His solo show THE QUITTER was a highlight of the Montreal Fringe I attended in June of 2014, and when I got word he was bringing his latest, I THINK I’M DEAD to Ottawa’s Gladstone Theatre for one night only, I immediately knew what my plans were for that night.
Based on his own extremely personal recollections, I THINK I’M DEAD follows Lafrance on a verbal trek through some of his darkest moments, starting with a decade-plus tango with insomnia (leading to a perhaps justifiable obsession with FIGHT CLUB), spinning into theories of parallel lives and a larger battle with depression and suicidal ideation, with some sidetracks into a Cuban hurricane and a wrestling-inspired trampoline misadventure to keep the mood light amidst the deeper subject matter. And if things get TOO dark, well, that’s what Billy Joel is for.
It’s a harrowing, funny and heartbreaking walk through a man’s innermost demons, and in the hands of a less honest and charming chap than Al Lafrance, we might be in trouble. Instead, we were in terrific care the whole time, balanced between the light and the dark, until of course it was time to go deeper one way or the other. Getting into the territory of depression and suicide can be dangerous in a one-man show for a variety of reasons, and Al manages the tightrope walk with a few admitted stumbles, but ones that make him all the more endearing because you know every word of it is real, and the pain being described is pain most of us in the audience have felt too, in some form or another. And it’s pain most of us would rather not talk about in public, thank you very much. So thanks very much to Al, for being the one willing to step out of their own darkness and share some light with the rest of us.
As said, this was a one-night-only show in Ottawa, so a review isn’t exactly of much use to you as far as that goes (which is too bad, because there’s another one following this one!!). But Al continues to tour, and will be out there on the circuit in 2018 trekking from Montreal to Vancouver over the summer. Do yourself a favour if you happen to be in one of the cities he visits and see what he’s got to tell you (check out his handy website for the details!)…you will likely be glad you did. Peace, love and soul,