It always gives me great pleasure to bear witness to the birth of a brand new Daniel MacIvor play, but there is something infinitely more special about watching it unfold in Nova Scotia, in the hands of Guysborough’s own Mulgrave Road Theatre, which also was first to produce MacIvor’s plays Marion Bridge and How It Works. The newest play written and directed by MacIvor is called Bingo! and it plays Neptune’s Studio Theatre for one more sold out performance tonight before touring to Guysborough’s Chedabucto Place Theatre on July 29th and 30th and then moving on to the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay August 2nd and 3rd.
Bingo! tells the story of five people whose lives are all irrevocably connected by their shared past, who come together for their 30 year High School reunion in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Rooted ardently in the concept of home, and how a small town can sometimes seem to stifle the growth of its residents, Bingo! is filled with lots of humour, a strong dose of heart and five incredibly rich and multifaceted characters whose interactions with one another are both familiar and irresistible.
On the surface, Bingo! seems like a simple summer stock comedy that uses specific details from a particular time (1981) and place (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) to appeal especially to a certain generation and a certain experience regarding both the coming of age, and revisiting those memories from thirty years away. Yet, what sets Bingo! a part is, of course, Daniel MacIvor’s writing. He plays a lot with speech rhythms in this play, in a nice mixture of slight regional dialect and giving each character their own distinct speech pattern, without any of it seeming at all contrived or manipulative. The result, when the five voice collide, is poetic realism. The humour in the play is quite incessant and MacIvor finds a great balance between offering his characteristic smart and crisp wit within a story that I am sure will find mass appeal with audiences. Bingo! is a local story that never feels hokey, it has a freshness that delves far beyond stereotypes and allows for its characters to be complex and fascinating whilst still keeping the comedy intact and engaging the heart. In my opinion, this is precisely what all comedies should seek to do.
The best part about getting the opportunity to see a Mulgrave Road Theatre Production of a MacIvor play is to have the opportunity to see Nova Scotian actors in the World Premiere by a World Class Nova Scotian playwright. I wish that there were more opportunities for this cast to perform this play, both here in Halifax and elsewhere in the country, because they are magnificent. There will be numerous casts of this play in the future, I am sure, lots of strong actors giving fine performances, but I don’t think it is possible for any five performers to make a more riveting collective.
John Beale, plays Paul, or “Nurk” as he is known by his old friends, a diplomatic and sometimes sheepish Environmental Engineer who has moved from Sydney to Calgary. Beale is immediately likeable and endears himself further once his acute awkward shyness with the ladies is revealed. Emmy Alcorn plays Boots, a tough minded cat lover with a reputation for being a lesbian. Alcorn’s physicality and the sheer power of her presence is impressive and her performance manages to be simultaneously assertive and subtle to perfect effect. Marty Burt plays Dougie, otherwise known as “Dookie,” who is the classic bully. Burt creates a character here that audiences will love to hate, but also really taps in nicely to the essence of this one individual’s humanity and the insecurities that only peak through in glimmers, but give a nice indication of how he has come to be this way. It is difficult to play a character that elicits so little empathy, but Marty Burt does it here with flying colors.
Ryan Rogerson plays “Heffer” (Jeff), one of Dookie’s best friends who is also harbouring an intense secret, with such ease it is easy to forget that he is acting. His comic timing is sharp, he spends the entire play continuously coming out and then retreating back into his shell without drawing any attention to it. I don’t know where Ryan Rogerson has been hiding out in the Nova Scotia theatre community, but he is one actor that I definitely want to see far more of and soon, please! Heather Rankin plays Bitsy, the very shy best friend of Boots who, by her own confession, “has gotta get out more.” Rankin is a true delight to watch. She is utterly hysterical, her comic timing is perfect, her physicality and vocal timbre are precise and best of all; she plays a character that could, in less worthy hands, be written off as a ditzy small town girl and makes her the most fascinating one in the room. Filled with heart and interesting choices, I hope to see far more of Heather Rankin in theatres across Nova Scotia, and hopefully the rest of Canada as well, in the very near future.
The play is not named after the famous card game, but instead after a drinking game from Dookie, Paul and Heffer’s years as teenagers. Still though, logistically, the title is still an exclamation used to express the joy of winning or of something triumphant. So, for Mulgrave Road, this cast and Daniel MacIvor I sum up my thoughts on the play thus: Bingo!
If you are in Guysborough you can book your tickets for the performances at the CPPC at this website and if you’re in Glace Bay, book your tickets for the performances at the Savoy Theatre here. Tickets are selling fast so get yours today!
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