Brimming with a dark and brittle humor, 15 Seconds is a play about a young female advertising copy writer, her pro-sports-fan ex-boyfriend, a Gen-X welfare-bum loser and his brother handicapped by cerebral palsy. These four characters are constantly making choices about reality and illusion; imagination and fantasy; the hale and the handicapped; about the way things are and the way they might be. The play’s characters each exist in their own worlds utterly without context: objectified to the point where their fantasies about who they might have been are all that define them to themselves, and who they superficially appear to be is all that defines them to each other. They are utterly unable to bridge this gulf and imagine each other; though they all remember that they should try to do so, they seem to have forgotten from where this moral imperative emanates. It is from this vestigial organ of empathy that much of the humour of the play is derived.
While the inability of such profoundly superficial and alienated characters to understand each other is the stock-in-trade of stand-up comedians and variety shows, 15 Seconds does something completely unexpected with this material?the audience is deprived of its traditional cathartic closure, and does not get to feel smug and morally superior after visiting with these characters. It is the characters themselves who, in their irredeemable banality, pronounce their own verdicts of condemnation. In the end, chance reigns supreme in a world where fifteen seconds of inattention or error can, and in fact does, irrevocably determine the shape of an entire lifetime.
Cast of 1 woman and 3 men.
François Archambault secured his reputation as a sharp social satirist with his earlier plays Cul sec (Fast Lane) and Les gagnants (The Winners) and further established his importance on the Quebec theatre scene with the award-winning 15 Seconds, a darkly humourous play about social alienation arising from superficial relationships.
Bobby Theodore’s first translation, François Archambault’s 15 Seconds, was produced across Canada and earned him a nomination for the Governor General’s Award for Literary Translation in 2000. Since then, he has gone on to translate more than 12 plays, including the works of some of Quebec’s most talented playwrights.