Everything Works On Paper: This Is How Beautiful View Works Onstage.

Silence. Crickets. Silence. Crickets. Two actors stand in a black box theatre and say nothing. They move about the space slowly. They bring in chairs. They sit in silence. Thus A Beautiful View, the remount of the da da kamera production written and directed by Daniel MacIvor now playing at Tarragon Theatre, begins.
Is nothing happening here? We later learn that one of the characters, Liz (although her name is never spoken) played by Tracy Wright, has the phrase “nothing is enough” attached to her refrigerator. Is it enough to simply be onstage? Is it enough to simply be in life? Silence. Crickets. Silence.
In time Liz says to the other character, Mitch (whose name is not spoken either), played by Caroline Gillis, “we should start.” But, in this seeming bout of nothingness, haven’t they already begun? This is a play, and MacIvor loves to play with these conventions. The silence is enough to captivate, and the nothing causes the audience to pay excruciating attention to each detail in attempt to piece together something, for surely these characters must have a story to tell us. The silence is heavy with that which is unexpressed, repressed, and unsaid.
The story unfolds slowly and out of sequence. It begins with awkward, disjointed, overlapping, interjections as the two women commit to the telling of their story, and then are taken back to the moment of their initial meeting in a camping gear store. The story eases into itself, and the audience is eased in slowly, in the exact same way that these two characters ease into their relationship and slowly take ownership of their own experience. Gillis and Wright are fantastic at portraying two characters so initially uncomfortable with one another that it is almost painful to watch them fumble over themselves and each other as they long to make a connection yet also attempt to deny the overwhelming, frightening, strange lure they feel toward one another.
A Beautiful View is a play rooted in fear. Both women are afraid, and yet brave enough to extend themselves (if only so far) into an unknown realm. The women are afraid of bears and yet they still go camping. They are afraid to label themselves as “lesbians” or “bisexual” and yet they allow themselves distinct moments to surrender to their sensual and sexual desires. At the end of the play, they are consumed by fear and forced to submit to it unconditionally, which allows them to transcend to a far more peaceful place; a place where they are no longer consumed by the fear of being judged and labeled.
I found many of the theatrical devices one comes to associate with Daniel MacIvor’s work on display in this play. His language is at once poetic, witty and incredibly insightful, yet also fluidly emerges from the characters and the situations they find themselves in. His direction proves once again that magic can be created so simply from fine performances, a few props and some particularly poignant lighting choices. MacIvor draws attention to himself wryly, as Liz and Mitch fight over how best to tell this story, which bits to include, and what to leave out. At one point he leads the audience toward the couple’s first kiss, only to have Mitch break away and ramble to the audience about everything except the obvious. Here, MacIvor plays with his audience’s expectations, as the characters reveal their own insecurities and resistance to tell the truth, or admit the depth of their feelings.
I didn’t find that this play hit me in the gut in the same way that You Are Here did (that show had me sobbing uncontrollably twice) but I felt that there was something incredibly interesting in watching two characters who didn’t seem convinced that they belonged on the stage at all. There was something so captivating in hearing characters who spoke but who so often didn’t say anything. Who spoke without connecting or communicating, as so often happens in life, but, I think happens less often onstage.
It becomes all about shutting up. Silence. Crickets. A vulnerable silence that opens us all up, and smashes the walls of words we have built up around our hearts. The familiarity that has been built up slowly between Mitch and Liz, and the actors and the audience needs no words to communicate intense emotions and poignant ideas. Here, nothing is indeed sufficient.
A Beautiful View plays in the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space until May 24th, 2009. 30 Bridgeman Avenue. Toronto. For tickets call 416 531-1827 or visit http://www.tarragontheatre.com/

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