Shoplifters (written and directed by Morris Panych) is a near perfect farce written and directed by the master of farce. Morris Panych takes a very simple premise and gives it enough spin for a delightful full length play. The ingredients are a shop worn security guard and his apprentice rent-a-cop. They are on duty when a mistress of shoplifting and her apprentice lifter get caught with two very expensive cuts of steak. The apprentice cop, intensely played by Laurent Pitre, adds a bit of re-born Christian into the mix, and the young novice shoplifter, delightfully confesses to anything just to get out of being caught.
Then there are the two veterans. Ellen David can make a stone laugh and her pitch perfect performance as Alma the neighbourhood Robin Hood and shoplifter par excellence is worth the trip to the Centaur in a cold rain. Then to top it all off, David gets to play opposite Michel Perron who cannot take a false step. His security guard with the heart of gold is utterly and completely engaging and hilarious. Put Perron and David in the same acting space and you have the one liners quips and heat rolling of the stage in constant and giddy waves.
The set sets you up for laughs even as you find your seat. It is a huge wall of cardboard boxes, with occasionally coloured bottles strategically lit from behind. There is a door to the supermarket and a table with only two chairs. Right near the end, Perron finishes licking the filling of an Oreo cookie, puts it back in the box and then puts the Oreo box back in its carton in the wall. A visual not to be missed.
The key to a great farce is timing, pace, and good exits and entrances, and Shoplifters had these in abundance. The pace is relentless, the comedy fresh and full of delights and surprises. This is among my favourite farces of all time. Do yourselves a favour and get your tickets fast.
The Shoplifters is at the Centaur Theatre until April 7th. Tickets can be found HERE or by phone at 514-288-3161 or by email@example.com