Review: Le Placard/The Closet (Théâtre français de Toronto)

Le Placard

Le Placard is an Evening of Laughter: Go See this Parisian Comedy!

Le Placard/The Closet is a tried-and-true French comedy that will have you laughing and groaning at Francois Pignon’s personal and corporate misfortunes. We’re very lucky to witness his comic conundrums at the Théâtre français de Toronto.

Pignon is the creation of French playwright Francis Veber; Awkward Pignon tickled funny bones in L’Emmerdeur and Le Dîner de cons in Toronto as well, and I’m now regretful that I missed them. I lost two chances for another night of laughs.

Pignon (Pierre Simpson) is a boring accountant to whom nothing extraordinary happens. Until he’s about to get fired! Upon the advice of his neighbour Belone (René Lemieux), Pignon starts pretending to be homosexual. That’s because if word gets out that his plastics company, a major supplier for condom makers, is homophobic, the company’s image and revenue would shatter. Being homosexual is his employment insurance.

The laughs keep coming as Pignon must maintain this charade. His colleagues and boss need to believe that he leads a double life. Unbearable macho Santini (Christian Laurin), smart supervisor Mlle Bertrand (Tara Nicodemo) and colleagues Ariane (Bahareh Yaraghi) and Guillaume (Thomas Gallezot) obsess about this discovery about Pignon’s private life. Crazy things start happening at the office: Santini befriends him even though they have nothing in common, Mlle Bertrand tries to remove Pignon’s clothing, and Pignon is made to wear a condom on his head for the Gay Pride parade.

Le Placard Photo 2
In addition to the constant laughter from the audience, I liked so many things about the robust, detailed work from director Guy Mignault and his team: the phone call from PM Trudeau to Mignault had us giggling; the introductory music from 1950s France transported us to melancholic Paris; Belone scored points for dressing like a French retiree; the hand gestures from the restaurant scene with Santini and Pignon were delightfully evocative; the raised level of Pignon’s apartment was a smart way to indicate the boundary between his business and personal life; and finally, the parade just steps from the front row seats made us feel like we were on the sidewalk.
The only very minor detail that threw me off a bit was the absence of a proper coffee machine. French office workers never drink coffee from a thermos; it’s either from a vending machine, a coffee maker or espresso machine. That being said, so many other details brought authenticity to the Parisian set such as the balcony railing and Santini’s moustache.
I asked my Parisian guest what he thought about the French accents. Here we were watching Pierre Simpson — from Welland, Ontario — play a Parisian. My friend confirmed that the accent from Simpson and the rest of the talented cast came straight from the City of Light.
See Le Placard for an evening of laughter, and enjoy this story of how a passive, unassuming nerd wreaks havoc and takes control of his destiny.
  • Le Placard plays until May 29, 2016 at the Theatre français de Toronto (167 Berkeley St.)
  • English surtitles on May 25, 27 and 28
  • Prices range from $30 to 45
  • Pay What You Can on Wednesday nights, cash only, 1 hour before curtain
  • Rush tickets for $20, Saturday nights, cash only, 1 hour before curtain
Photo credit: Marc Lemyre
Photo 1: Pierre Simpson, Christian Laurin, Thomas Gallezot and Tara Nicodemo
Photo 2: Bahareh Yaraghi, Pierre Simpson et Tara Nicodemo