Preview: Calgary character actor dons multiple personalities in Lunchbox's cross-country road trip

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For the past six months, Calgary actor Duval Lang has been grappling with four alter egos.

When Lunchbox Theatre’s final play of this season opens on April 16, Lang will finally unleash this quartet that has occupied so much of his interior life.

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The Ballad of Georges Boivin, the award-winning play by French Canadian author Martin Bellemare, is the story of a recently widowed, 77-year-old man who convinces three of his longtime friends to accompany him on a road trip from Montreal to Vancouver. Having just lost Germaine, the love of his life, Georges has decided to seek out Juliette, the very first woman he ever loved. He has her address in Vancouver from 50 years ago. He has no idea if she still lives there, or if she is even alive, but he hopes this quest will return meaning to his shattered life.

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Though The Ballad of Georges Boivin has been produced numerous times in Quebec and Europe, Lunchbox’s version, under the direction of artistic director Bronwyn Steinberg, is only the second time the play has been produced in English, in a translation by Jack Patterson with Johanna Nutter.

“It was important for me to base the four characters on people I know so I could keep them as distinct as possible. I’ve given each man specific vocal characteristics, his idiosyncrasies of movement, and his own character traits,” says Lang, who admits he patterned Georges after himself.

“I dug out my old high school yearbook to look up pictures of Marlene, my very first real girlfriend. It’s the image I hold for Juliette. As was the case with Georges, this was my first love, and those are people we never really forget. It was definitely infatuation, and to complicate things, she was very popular. That put me behind the eight ball, but I persisted. I understand why Georges goes on his quest.”

Duval Lang stars in Lunchbox Theatre’s cross-country journey The Ballad of Georges Boivin. Photo, Hannah Kerbes cal

Georges picks up his friend Gerard at a nursing home. Lang says “he’s quite combative because he has borderline dementia, and struggles with memory. Anger is just his way of coping, and covering up. Clement was also in a retirement home, and he’s the aristocrat of the group. People will recognize who I’ve patterned him after because he’s a pretty famous personality.”

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Jean Pierre is in a nursing home and is failing physically. He’s in a wheelchair and he’s almost deaf, but Georges could not go on this journey without him.

“Georges and Jean Pierre have been friends for as long as they can remember. He’s the glue that connects Georges to Juliette because Jean Pierre remembers so many details about that relationship. Physically he may be weak, but he is the sharpest of the quartet.”

Lang also plays six additional characters the little group meets along the way, and he admits “it’s a bit of a challenge to keep them all in my head, and separate. That’s why I started working on the script way back in October.”

Lang recently saw the filmed version of Andrew Scott’s solo show Vanya for the British National Theatre, and was inspired by “how, with very little effort, he was able to distinguish all the different characters. Like Scott, I’m not going to be changing hats, or adding little costume pieces to distinguish my characters. What he accomplished has become my goal.”

The only other solo show Lang has performed was 40 years ago for Quest Theatre. It was called Portrait of An Adult As A Young Man, but he has welcomed this new challenge since the day Steinberg offered him the role.

Lunchbox’s The Ballad of Georges Boivin runs in the Vertigo Studio Theatre at the base of The Calgary Tower from April 16 through May 5. For times and performance dates, check out

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