In the late 1980s Daniel MacIvor promised his best friend Caroline Gillis that he would write a play for her if she moved from Halifax to join him in Toronto and so See Bob Run (1987) was born. Recently the play found its way to the Theatre Nova Scotia Living Room in Halifax in a production that establishes Margaret Legere as a captivating and proficient performer but that leaves the audience’s journey a little lacking in momentum and intensity.
Bob is heading East. Til you hit the water. A lot of water. She is harboring a huge secret from her immediate past and grappling with one just as large from her childhood. MacIvor plays with confessions and revelations throughout this one-person monologue that paints a heart wrenching and twisted portrait of intimacy and loyalty, of the lingering effects of child abuse and the tricks our protagonist uses to cope with intense pain, fear, shame, love and confusion. In typical MacIvor style it is a brutally funny shining of light into the darkness of the human condition. It is an examination of story, of narrative, of play, of intersecting truths and lies, fictions and fabrications and the unraveling of the heart of the matter, which is often a sucker punch for the audience. In essence, it is one of MacIvor’s earliest plays but it contains much of what has made his work so successful and so poignant.
Legere plays Bob with a lighter touch than I expected; a sweeter and more immediately vulnerable fucked up girl hitchhiking away from her troubles, or trying to. This interpretation works in that the audience is drawn in immediately to her stories and they are firmly fixed to her side as she depicts the world’s various injustices against her. The challenge for Legere is maintaining a strong through line for Bob’s rich and intensely dark subtext throughout the arc of the play. It is there, glistening through in beautiful moments, but it is not yet as tightly realized as it could be.
The big question in See Bob Run is: why does Bob suddenly confess her horrific deed to the last driver? Why does she confess to us, the audience, and why does she decide to turn herself in to the authorities? How does Bob get from the beginning of the play to the end? MacIvor does not make the answers clear in the writing, so it is up to the performer and the director to make this journey of unraveling and revealing clear for the audience. The pacing, subtext and the arc of Bob’s journey must be meticulous, with intensely high stakes, and this is where director Natasha MacLellan does not have a strong enough hand.
Firstly, MacLellan doesn’t stage the parts of the play in the car with a clear enough sense of the looming driving figure that is invisible to the audience. When Bob is physically and sexually assaulted on her journey the audience should be able to see the powerful invasion of Bob’s space. We should sense the danger of her being suddenly uncovered, even before we know what we are afraid of uncovering. There are brutal moments of violence depicted in this play, but just one is dramatized onstage, when Bob is “thrown from her seat [the car] into darkness-” this moment should capture the intensity of the play. Secondly, momentum and lighting are so essential to MacIvor plays and the constant slow fades to black, as opposed to a brisk and jarring switch from lights to blackness and back again (like the flashing of headlights), are incongruous with the arc of the writing and pull the audience too far out of Bob’s world far too often. I know The Living Room provides limited options for lights, but they are so critical to the MacIvor ambiance. The Living Room is perfect, however, for creating the perfect relationship between Bob and the audience, where we are so close we become complicit to the action.
See Bob Run is one of the those productions that is a fine execution of a beautiful play that may have gotten further traction, intensity and depth with additional rehearsal time.
See Bob Run is closed.