“Daniel MacIvor may be a little late…” Charlie Rhindress says before the greatly anticipated playwright/performer sheepishly appears at the back of the house wearing a jaunty-looking cap and clutching a Venti Starbucks cup. This Is What Happens Next, in the newest Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks co-creation, a Necessary Angel Production which runs until November 25th, 2012 in association with Eastern Front Theatre at the Neptune Scotiabank Studio Theatre.
MacIvor, speaking as “the playwright” immediately launches into a saga to excuse his lateness, blaming the two women ahead of him in line for ordering enough beverages to caffeinate a small army and blaming the baristas for their inability to properly count the number of shots for each drink. MacIvor is, as he freely admits, a bit of a “blamer.” So, the play begins with our playwright exuding heaps of his signature self-deprecating charm as he tells us that he’s been working on “being a better person” and all the soul searching and constant judgement and skepticism that comes from such searching… and all that entails. He is simultaneously searching for proof of an eventual happy ending while pleading with us: “let’s just be here now,” and yet, of course, still inquiring about what will happen next.
As a writer Daniel MacIvor has an exceptional talent for capturing the most ordinary moments of the human experience with profundity and poetry and weaving incredible connections between ideas and experiences that at first appear haphazard, which come to evoke an enriched sense of our relationship to one another and the world around us. This play especially has the ability to speak so specifically and personally about one man’s journey, while reflecting a much larger communal experience. This Is What Happens Next is a layering of storytelling not unlike MacIvor and Brooks’ earlier collaborations, but what makes this play stand out is that it is not a collection of clear, tightly-woven narratives hurdling toward the definitive climax at the end. What happens next is that the playwright begins to examine himself. Why is he writing such a twisted and cynical play? Do happy endings automatically negate complex characters and cheapen insightful stories? How can an artist seek to find balance in the world, to heal his past wounds and live a positive, healthy life without reducing his art to tales about kittens and puppies who sing and dance with merriment in constant sunshine? This Is What Happens Next revels in the journey of searching for the story as the playwright seeks to shine a bit more light into a previously pitch-black room.
As an actor Daniel MacIvor is exquisitely unstoppable. In this play he launches himself between seven sharply distinct characters with precision and vigour and gives seven formidable performances. First we are introduced to Warren, an angry man who has been rattled down to his soul following the collapse of the relationship between him and his boyfriend. Warren wants his stuff back: his winter jacket, his boots, a book on philosophy, his John Denver CD- he just wants his stuff. Susan is Warren’s brutally honest lawyer, a part that MacIvor plays with delightful feistiness and, most impressively, that he manages to portray without resorting to mediocre stereotypes. Susan has a tentative third date scheduled with Aaron, an astrologer who is keeping a substantial secret and Aaron has an extremely impressionable and vibrantly imaginative seven year old nephew named Kevin, whose voice MacIvor captures magnificently. MacIvor is also particularly effective as Kevin’s alcoholic father, Mike, who is in a dangerous cycle of articulating exactly what needs to be done to change his life, but leaving all instigating action until an elusive tomorrow. Will is at the heart of everything, the acrid, self-loathing, selfish Know it All who simultaneously seems bored to tears and scared to death. MacIvor gives so much depth to each role, but I found the relationship between Aaron, Kevin and Mike to be particularly heart wrenching and beautifully captivating.
Daniel Brooks’ direction is characteristically seamless, so much so that it gives the illusion of effortlessness. Richard Feren’s soundscape adds a rich texture to the stories and Kimberly Purtell’s lighting has the power to eerily transform MacIvor’s appearance, which adds a magical element to his switching from one character to the next. The result is, what MacIvor calls “a scary fairy tale with a happy ending;” it is a story about addiction and the giant demons that terrorize us and those who love us as the demons grow wildly larger and our lives spiral beyond the force of our will. It is an immediately captivating theatrical journey that can evoke laughter, stark contemplation, horror and relief in harrowing succession. The happy ending represents a modest hope for redemption, forgiveness and for what happens next, while the Playwright can’t quite quell his urge to remind us that with that there is always the potential for tragedy, for disaster and for the end to come too quickly and to sweep our life away.
For this moment though, we watch a play. Daniel MacIvor is back in Halifax telling stories in all his grandeur and the audience revels in the power of the room and of the now.
Necessary Angel and Eastern Front Theatre’s production of Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks’ This is What Happens Next plays at the Neptune Scotiabank Studio Theatre (1593 Argyle Street) Thursday November 22- Saturday November 24th at 8:00pm with 2:00pm matinees on Saturday November 24th and Sunday November 25th. Tickets are $20.00 (adult), $15.00 (Student/Senior), $10.00 if you call (or visit) the box office and say the code (DANIEL2012). Tickets can be purchased at the Neptune Theatre Box Office in person (1593 Argyle Street), by calling 902.429.7070 or online at this website. For more information please visit this website.
This is What Happens Next will say farewell to Toronto at Factory Theatre December 1-9, 2012- for more information please visit this website and then it will end its run forever at the Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary January 23-February 3, 2013. Catch the “Kingdom of Kevin” before it is gone!!