By Adam Collier
The first character we meet is Will (the name appearing in gently cursive lettering that floats above the stage as a projection). Will admits to a drinking problem and a cocaine addiction … he seems fine when suddenly MacIvor ruptures into Warren – a hyper-active middle-aged man with a higher voice than Will has, dealing with a bad break-up.
Three characters later, the stage is literally shaking with bass as a little boy named Kevin tells us that Will has just been crushed.
One patron begins to clap.
But the show isn’t over before MacIvor offers a conclusion of sorts for each character. Warren, for example, receives a package that contains a Jon Denver CD – an object of intense acrimony between Warren and his ex-boyfriend that we have heard alllll about.
Then there was lots of applause.
I talked to a few people in the theatre lobby that said they liked the show. They also knew MacIvor’s work from before though, and were just as much praising the (apparent) icon as the actual show.
“He’ll keep you in a palm of his hand,” said one patron of MacIvor, “he’s a masterful storyteller.” Another described McIvor as “one of the most important actors in Canada.”
I had never heard of Daniel MacIvor before, so my introduction was at the beginning of the show.
Before the spotlight comes-up on Will, MacIvor introduces the show with a monologue. ‘I’m a blamer,’ he tells us. The revelation comes on the heels of a nearly five-minute story in which MacIvor lampoons two women and a barista at the Starbucks for almost making him late for his own show.
This personal instinct to blame others is surfaces in each the characters in the show. And though each manifests it uniquely (‘My youngest is just a dull throb, compared to the older who’s the real thorn in my side’ ’ says Susan the lawyer, referring to her daughters) I found myself tuning-out in parts, because there came a point about three-quarters into the show where the object of the blame wasn’t clear to me. I had lost the thread of who was responsible for what and why.
Maybe I just got too caught-up in the moment-to-moment action – the voices and mannerisms – and the poetic flourishes, and poignant images (a blind patron told me she loved the image of the little boy flying through the air), and – far more often – a perfectly worded one-liner.
The humor, usually sexual and a bit dark, is, as MacIvor notes in his introduction, a personality trait. For MacIvor it’s finding the positive in that first negative association. He hates snow for example, but sliding through a traffic light in snow might mean getting pulled-over by a cute cop, he says with a wry smile.
What captivated me far more than the language though, was the performance itself.
I had never seen a one-person show before, and was blown-away by the versatility of MacIvor. For example, in the sequence staring Warren there is one portion when MacIvor switches, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, between two characters seamlessly.
Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design is perfect – allowing those essential transitions from character to character to happen, and generally clarifying the action (the low-key projections, for example). Sound was also used to extraordinary effect – adding levity to some of the emotionally heavy confessions, and, power to the giant that works into the plot as a critical unseen figure.
If you’ve never seen a one-man show before, this might be a good one to start with, I learned a lot about what’s possible on stage.
– This Is What Happens Next … is playing at the Berkley Street Theatre Downstairs (26 Berkley Street; Berkley Street is one block to the west of Parliament on Front; the theatre is right across the street from a Porsche dealership)
– It runs till May 8th, Monday through Saturday beginning at eight; with a matinee show on Wednesday at 1:30 and on Saturday at 2:00
– The show is approximately an hour-and-a-half long, and there is no intermission
– Tickets can be purchased online at the CanStage website, by phone (416-368-3110), or at the box office.
– Tickets range in price between $20 and $45; with a Pay-What-You-Can ever Monday