Sunday, January 21, 2007

PLAY: "A Beautiful View"

Crickets chirp. Lights come up slow to reveal a stereo. A woman enters in a blue windbreaker. She leaves. Another woman enters in a red windbreaker. She leaves. The stage palpitates with unspoken possibilities. The crickets chirp. The two come back on stage with chairs. "They're going to think you don't like me," says one of the two, calling the other out on the way she's shifted her chair so that it faces away from her. The fragile illusion breaks, and one of the two presses the stop button on the stereo. The crickets stop. The play has already begun.

Daniel MacIvor is a brilliant playwright in this regard: his plays blur the line between performance and scene, and his direction of A Beautiful View simplifies matters even more by reducing the set to a series of props: a stereo, a plastic tree, a tent, and two folding chairs. Nothing happens on that set that isn't important or essential, and in fact whole years--two lifetimes--are compressed into an eighty minute work. The plot is rich in text and subtext too, especially with the actors disagreeing on the narration of the story, or with the way phrases recur and loop around in both the foreground of the show and the meaty scenes. But the reason I highlight the opening of the play is that it creates a mise en scene that drives everything else: by the end of this show, these two fabulous actors, Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis, are left with nothing to hide behind.

The story resembles that of Brokeback Mountain, in that there are two people who fall in love, only to repress it for thirty years, meeting occasionally and fighting with themselves and each other to accept what is, for better or worse, a better self. The pacing is steady, but by jumping into the key scenes, it seems a lot faster than it is. The natural performances also belie the amount of ground covered: they speak so well that watching the show is like sitting at a bar with two of your friends as they just chat. All of this is a gross simplification for the dozens of complex minutiae that MacIvor pulls off with lighting cues and specific blocking, but that's fine: that's how the show looks, too.

How appropriate that one of the main topics of their conversation is the statement "Nothing is enough." There's the positive meaning, which is that nothing suffices, and there's the negative one, which is that you can never be satisfied. But then there's also the theatrical one, which MacIvor has perfected (drawing from both the positive and negative): A Beautiful View is nothing but what's necessary, and everything else within that.

[First posted on New Theater Corps, 1/21]

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