Stephen Taschereau and Lionel Lafleur Source: Courtesy of Lenny Schwartz

Review: This Production of 'The Motion Picture Camera of Louis Le Prince' Doesn't Add Up to the Sum of Its Parts

Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.

The life of an inventor is never easy, as seen in Daydream Theater Company's production of "The Motion Picture Camera of Louis Le Prince." The title character was a French artist in the late 1800s.

The play begins with an intriguing scene set on a train. Louis (Lionel Lafleur) engages in a conversation with a man known only as the Conductor (Steve Taschereau). They discuss the camera in Louis' possession. The camera "tells a story in a new way," Louis explains.

Louis falls in love with Lizzie (Jamie Lyn Bagley), and is employed by her family. He is earnest and highly intelligent, but has difficulty balancing his work life and his family life. The idea of capturing bits of life on film becomes an obsession.

Louis explains the function of the motion picture camera to Lizzie and his daughter Mariella (Tonia Klemp). His son Adolphe (Derek Laurendeau) becomes Louis' faithful assistant as he tests out the camera. Meanwhile, Louis' rival Thomas Edison (J.P. Cottam) connives with other businessmen to take credit for Louis' invention. A shocking act of violence (which I will not spoil) follows, and has a huge impact on the Le Prince family.

Jamie Lyn Bagley and Lionel Lafleur
Source: Courtesy of Lenny Schwartz

"The Motion Picture Camera of Louis Le Prince" has interesting themes, such as the inner neuroses which afflict highly creative people, the cutthroat nature of industry, and the way success can breed resentment.

However, writer/director Lenny Schwartz ("Dramatis Persona") isn't able to blend all these ingredients into a successful whole. At first, the play is a character study. Then midway through, it becomes a mystery. Then it concludes as a courtroom drama, with the Le Prince family battling it out with Edison. Was the real Edison this unscrupulous and despicable? Even if he was, the theme of someone taking credit for another's work was presented in a much more compelling manner in Schwartz's "Ditko" and "Bill Finger: Rise of the Bat."

Lafleur is sympathetic and haunting as Louis becomes increasingly paranoid about others watching him. Bagley, who starred in the movie "Higher Methods," is an effortlessly engaging performer. Lizzie serves as a passionate advocate for her husband as his life's work is being threatened.

Lionel Lafleur, Stephen Taschereau, and Jamie Lyn Bagley
Source: Courtesy of Lenny Schwartz

Geoff White ("Bill Finger: Rise of the Bat") is suitably oily as Edison's attorney. Taschereau ("The Gin Game") is chillingly effective as Louis' mysterious enemy. Dan Martin ("Dramatis Persona") also does fine work as Albert Le Prince. I would've liked to know more about the relationship between these two brothers. There's an awkward moment when Albert asks Louis if he is having a gay love affair, and Louis denies it. I expected this to lead somewhere, but it is brushed aside and never mentioned again.

The best thing this play does is educate people about the tragic life of a brilliant man. Louis Le Prince is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the movie industry. He was a visionary who never stopped working to realize his dream.

"The Motion Picture Camera of Louis Le Prince" runs through April 20. Daydream Theater Company. Performances at the Beacon Charter High School For the Arts, Woonsocket, RI. For tickets, visit

by Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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