Review: The De Chardin Project (Quickening Theatre)

The De Chardin Project revisits history at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille

The De Chardin Project is an important story about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In reality, the story took place on four continents. You can save your frequent flyer miles and see it all at Theatre Passe Muraille in less than two hours.

Teilhard, as de Chardin was commonly called, was a Jesuit priest who inhabited this planet for the first half of the 20th Century. He was exiled to China by the Church and while there, found “the missing link”.

The De Chardin Project is a play that recalls the priest’s life. Iin a linear format. From France as a child, to digging through sand in Egypt, to exile in China and then to New York City, we live his life. 

The De Chardin Project is the type of play I love to see. I am without religion. Having grown up in Canada, my understanding of history is confined to hockey rinks and loving to hate Americans. I look to theatre to open up my eyes and expand my horizons. 

The play succeeds in educating. The De Chardin Project opens eyes. Andt least it does so ion a comfortable way. 

The stage is largely bare and lighting is the only thing that distinguishes the stage from one scene to another.

Adam Seyebold wrote the play and plays the lead role. He plays a Jesuit priest well, from my a-religious understanding. I thought he was one dimensional as Teilhard. Maybe that’s the point. 

He raises questions, but during the ninety minutes, he rarely raises his voice. Religion is a static phenomenon. Science and discovery are equally monotone in this play.

There is a tremendous theme about a bird flying to the sun with a grain of sand in its mouth. This will surely be the image, the “take-way” from The De Chardin Project. 

Seybold plays de Chardin throughout the play with the same devotion to Jesus that is believable, yet boring. For me, watching Seyebold was like watching Mitt Romney. He is totally convincing, but totally ridiculous. He doesn’t “sell” The Missing Link, nor do we believe it.

Teilhard meets a number of women throughout his life. He meets some men too. Intuition would lead us to believe that some hanky- panky was involved. In this play, there is not.

Kate Fenton plays the women and men that have shaped Teilhard’s life. At times she is believable. She is the star of the show. Fenton moves from ghost to friend to mistress to mother. 

As mother, she is fantastic. Switching from character to character though, it is hard to invest attention.

Although written by a man, I thought play seemed like a woman’s perspective of an important, but forgotten, public figure. It’s a decent story, but I’m not so sure it is a decent play. 

The play does succeed in inspiring. A bird flying with a grain of sand is an image that will be withll you for a while.

This is a play worth seeing for historical reasons. This is why I love theatre. You should check it out!

Details:

  • The De Chardin Project is playing at Toronto from February 7th – February 17th at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • Shows run Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm with Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm
  • Tickets are $15-$25 and can be purchased online or by calling 416-504-7529