photo by guntar kravis
“Daniel MacIvor, you’re late,” you think as Daniel MacIvor sheepishly appears somewhere between the stage and the audience wearing a jaunty-looking hat and clutching a Starbucks cup. This Is What Happens Next, apparently, in the newest Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks co-creation, a Necessary Angel Production which runs until May 8th, 2010 in association with Canadian Stage at the Berkeley Street 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 scepticism 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 enquiring 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 twisted cynical plays? 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 windbreaker, his sneakers, a book, 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.
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 fairytale 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 now though, Daniel MacIvor is back telling stories in all his grandeur and I already can’t wait to see what will happen next.
Necessary Angel’s production of This Is What Happens Next plays at Canadian Stage’s Berkeley Theatre (26 Berkeley Street) until May 8th, 2010. For more information please call 416.368.3110 or visit www.canadianstage.com.