Analyze the style of the play Polygraph by Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard by describing the various devices the play uses and how they contribute to its meaning.
Lepage and Brassard's Polygraph may be referred to as play noir, from the term film noir, which is defined as...
...a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish crime dramas...
"Noir" means "black" in French—the mood and tone of the piece is decidedly dark. One fascinating aspects to this play is the decision to provide sequences as if they were on film, further connecting the play to the cinematic industry. Lucie is acting in a film role—the feeling of a film playing mirrors her work in creating a film, thereby bringing home to the viewer (or the reader, with stage direction) an understanding of the fine line that separates art from life.
The sense of film continues:
Music plays in a film-style introduction...a projection titles the scene, the film script-style introduction of each scene in this way will continue throughout the play.
The actress who plays Lucie is first presented as the representation of a murder victim. David speaks of the dead woman; his speech is paralleled by Francois, in a Political Science college course, who is talking about the dissection of Berlin with the wall. One actor speaks and his words reflect a sense of violence—using the imagery of a knife—also present in the speech of the other actor, moving swiftly back and forth. This scene is called "The Filter."
As if a continuous loop, the tempo of the 'filter' dialogue increases with the volume and drive of the music. As it is repeated, the naked body of Lucie rises...lit by anatomical slide projections: muscles, veins, organs and bones superimposed on her flesh, as though she is transparent.
This special effect is like a computer's ability to project two images at one time, something achieved in film and inferred creatively here.
When the play requires a change of scenery to Francois' restaurant, the actor carries on a table, sets it, disassembles it, moves to a new spot, and completes the process over and again. All the while, he carries on conversations as if there were speaking to patrons. This method gives the impression of a crowd, but also the passage of time.
During the course of the scene he covers the whole stage, so suggesting a room full of tables...
Another interesting aspect of the staging allows for the audience to understand that the past comes to haunt Francois. The wall in the play is used several times with surprising effect. In this same scene, at the "end of the day," Francois sits down at a table, "exhausted."
David enters the restaurant over the wall, sliding down with his back to it, his arms and his suit jacket spread like a giant ominous spider.
Slipping into a chair across from Francois, David delivers a series of questions that the audience will later recognize as queries he put to waiter six years prior when he was the leading suspect in a murder investigation. David quizzed Francois while he was connected to a polygraph machine. With this staging technique, the audience is given the opportunity to not only watch Francois travel back in time in his mind, but to see that David—although an investigator—may not necessarily be a good guy.
Later, sounds of the Metro provide the sense of a train station: first as Lucie witnesses a suicide, and later when Francois takes his life in the same manner, transporting the audience to two similar scenes of horror.
The action never lets up and there are surprises from beginning to end with the play's construction, special effects and tension.
The style of Polygraph is quick, fast-paced, intricate. There are no breaks in the 90 minute play. If the audience isn't as quick as the dialogue and the changing situations, then the key line to what later unravel is missed. Thus the style is complex with elements inter-related and nothing superfluous.