By Michelle Barker
I have to start by saying that A Beautiful View at Tarragon, written by Daniel McIvor, was everything that I wanted it to be. This isn’t hyperbolic trope; I was actually enamored by almost every aspect of the piece.
It’s a love story. The plot is simple. The set and props are in all ways minimal. But the story is so profoundly funny, moving, and well-written that it can stand on its own without any complex production elements.
Hana, my fabulous roommate, and I went to the show knowing only three things: it was a two-woman show, it was a love story, and it was going to be up-close and personal (set in Tarragon’s extra space).
After the show’s 75-minute run, Hana and I walked out of the theatre in relative silence. The startling and poignant conclusion that the play builds towards left us both a bit shaken. But in a good way. I think.
Given that Hana has limited experience with theatre, I was pleased to find that she really appreciated the minimalist concept. The only set pieces used are two chairs, a tent, and a fake fig tree. Hana rather astutely pointed out that this allowed us to focus entirely on the story unfolding between the two women.
Being a theatre nerd, I was in awe of the lighting, designed by Kimberly Purtell. Her transformative design took the characters effortlessly from the inside of a sporting-goods store, to a rock concert, to an airport restaurant. Admittedly, I never got high marks in lighting class, but the effect of each cue wasn’t lost on me. Moreover, the lighting was accompanied beautifully by a sound score, designed by Michael Laird, that the women seemed to control through clever use of a simple boom box on the stage.
Another great point that Hana brought up was how effectively McIvor uses soliloquies in the piece. The two characters transition between reliving past events and soliloquies to move through the events of the piece in a thoughtful and clear manner. When combined with a masterful command of silence, the women, played by Caroline Gillis and Tracy Wright, relive their hilariously beautiful story.
Hana’s only complaint was that the plot seemed to drag at times. I can accept that, given that the first five minutes of the show are performed in complete silence.
Basically, the show had me hooked from the first line. A Beautiful View is an example of how incredible theatre can be without feeling the need to become spectacle. I wouldn’t consider myself a sap by any stretch of the imagination, but this love story is definitely one of the better shows that I’ve seen in a while, making a profound statement about the dangers of labels, lies… and bears.
– A Beautiful View plays at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave.) until May 24th
– Show times are Wednesday – Sunday at 8 p.m. with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Saturday Sunday
– Tickets range from $35 to $45
– The Box Office can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 416-531-1827
– Friday Night Rush tickets are available for $15
Photo of Caroline Gillis and Tracy Wright by Gunter Kravis