A Beautiful View (April 22, 2011, Montreal Gazette)

Review: Daniel MacIvor's A Beautiful View

Friday, April 22, 2011


MONTREAL – Daniel MacIvor has arrived at Centaur Theatre, at last.

His beautifully written A Beautiful View, about two women who forge a complicated, soulmate relationship, makes it difficult to believe that the works of this renowned, Siminovitch Award-winning Canadian playwright/actor/filmmaker have never been seen before at either of our two main English theatres in Montreal.

Equally bizarre is the fact that MacIvor's plays have already been produced in Montreal at francophone theatres like Théâtre de Quat'Sous and Usine C – in English.

MacIvor is no stranger to New York (where he won an Obie), London or Tokyo, either.

The Centaur/Segal Centre bypass, however, wasn't entirely due to the short-sightedness of former artistic directors. As long as he was tied to his Toronto-based theatre company da da kamera (which ceased to exist in 2008), scheduling was also an inhibiting factor, MacIvor explains. Now this Cape Breton native is free to direct and/or perform on a freelance basis at Canada's regional theatres, including Centaur.

A Beautiful View is part of a collection which won MacIvor the Governor General's literary award for drama in 2006. It's a captivating work, performed by two women (Diane Brown and Colleen Wheeler) gifted with a knack for finding the comedy in tragedy and vice versa.

Minimalist to the max, A Beautiful View takes place on an unadorned stage where a visible boom box rules the sound effects, beginning with the chatter of crickets and the calls of loons and owls. One woman enters shyly, makes eye contact with the audience, smiles, and exits. The other does the same. Mime time. Two folding chairs are set up. A halting dialogue ensues. "Maybe we should start at the beginning," suggests one woman, establishing that this is storytelling theatre of the up close and personal kind.

What follows is process of reconciliation pursued through revisiting the history of a long-term romantic relationship between two women who don't (exactly) define themselves as lesbians.

MacIvor isn't just a purveyor of words and images, or messages.

Silences and dramatic pauses are key to his seamlessly woven works, as is a sharp sense of humour.

His characters, in this case two very ordinary B.C. women who work dead-end jobs and dream of pursuing musical careers, are credible, deeply rooted in genuine psychological possibility.

Like all love stories, this one revisits the first encounter, the tentative ploys for attention, the first kiss. The women drift apart, then together, then apart again. Linda, who loves camping, marries (a man) who's handy with a tent. Mitch becomes spinsterish, adopts a cat and writes a pathos-laden folksong, rendered touchingly by Brown.

The structure of this 80-minute play is as intricate as it is playful, building toward a climactic event.

Memorable line? "You've got to be really organized to be bisexual."

Wheeler and Brown have already performed this show, produced by Ruby Slippers Theatre (of which Brown is the artistic director), under MacIvor's direction, in Vancouver. Their performances are polished, engaging, pitch-perfect.

A Beautiful View evokes that oft-quoted line from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: "If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts."

No one should miss this finely crafted piece of theatre.

A Beautiful View, written and directed by Daniel MacIvor, continues at Centaur Theatre, 453 St. François Xavier St., until May 22. Tickets: 514-288-3161 or visit www.centaurtheatre.com.