Des Arbres: An honest, intimate story of a couple contemplating parenthood

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Des Arbres | Théâtre de la Manufacture et La Licorne | presented by Théâtre la Seizième | Studio 16 | May 8 – 12, 2018

Bringing a child into this world is complicated — because this world is complicated. There is a lot to think about: is it selfish to have a child when the planet is overpopulated and facing a climate crisis? What happens to a body after childbirth? What is the best time of year to give birth? Sometimes too much thinking can be counterproductive.

Eveline Gélinas and Maxime Denommée share an empty stage for 90 minutes, and they deliver authentic, honest performances. It’s just them and Duncan Macmillan’s powerful words (translated by Benjamin Pradet), and it’s intense. They are a couple that represents so many stereotypes about female anxieties and male malaise, but at the heart of the story is a truth that is exaggerated to explore the anxieties that anyone contemplating becoming a parent might face. Des Arbres is a love story complete with difficulties, triumphs, tragedies, separation, and reconciliation.  

The dialogue about having a baby starts in Ikea, but it continues throughout this couple’s lives — at home, at the zoo, in bed, in the car…it consumes them. She can’t stop thinking about all the potential complications, the child’s imagined future, and her fears, while he tries to comfort and reassure her. Their discussions flow naturally and are insightful, philosophical — at one point he brings up the argument that they should have children because they are good, educated people and too many stupid people are having children. This leads them into a discussion about eugenics and finally she wonders if they should just adopt.     

Benoît Vermeulen’s simple staging allows for the words to be the focus and for them to flow freely. There are moments when their exchanges are so natural and they take each other’s cues as if in a dance. I was impressed by Gélinas’s stream of consciousness ramblings after they return home from Ikea and she is working through all her feelings out loud. “People don’t think about the enormity of having a child!” She pauses briefly and her partner almost gets a word in before she returns to her determined, meandering thought process as if her partner is not there.  

She can’t stop thinking about future possible scenarios; he lives in the moment. She questions everything and asks him if they are, in fact, good people; he takes this for granted. They are two very different people drawn together and forever connected by their shared experience. Des Arbres is a compelling, relevant, and superbly acted two-hander. We’re lucky this production, which premiered in 2016 at Théâtre La Licorne in Montréal, made the trip out west to end their 2018 tour in Vancouver.  

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