5 O’Clock Bells
Written and performed by Pierre Brault, Sleeping Dog Theatre
Runs June 10-13th @ the Berkeley Street Theatre
Part of Luminato
By Daina Valiulis
Written and performed by Pierre Brault of Ottawa’s Sleeping Dog Theatre, 5 O’Clock Bells chronicles the life and mysterious death of Lenny Breau, jazz guitar genius. Advertised as a show about Breau’s transformative effect on Canadian and American music, the piece was actually more focused on how he was seen as an individual from the perspectives of his parents, his wives, and the various artists with whom he worked.
Brault captivatingly plays all the characters in Lenny’s life, and they speak as if they were speaking to Lenny. The only time Lenny speaks back is through them – he never has his own voice in the show, an interesting choice that reflects Breau’s loneliness and isolation, and at the same time mythologizes him.
Also a guitarist, Papa Breau dreams of his son’s fame and resents him for the talent which surpasses his own. His pain is made heartwrenchingly clear by Brault’s empathetic portrayal and is such a strong, recurring theme that when Breau’s father finally dies, the momentum of the play dies with him.
Had the story ended here, it would’ve made a clean break. Unfortunately, it continues until Breau’s untimely and confusing death. He marries his second wife and has a child with her, stops taking meth and then suddenly is found dead at the bottom of a pool, possibly a victim of murder by Wife #2. It all happens so fast that it’s hard to feel invested. The play ends with no explanation and no more speculation than the brief thoughts of the characters that have constructed Breau in his absence.
Lenny Breau began and ended his life with mystery. Perhaps, in presenting the audience with the life story of a character constructed by others, Brault achieved his means. Unfortunately, as a result, nothing about Breau the man lingers. Despite this meandering story, however, Brault delivers a truly excellent performance in a solid one-man show.