Review: A Beautiful View (Volcano Theatre with BeMe Theatre)

Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford in A Beautiful View

Unusual staging sets a unique tone to A Beautiful View playing at Toronto’s Factory Theatre

I was stricken when I first entered Factory Theatre’s Studio. Instead of the usual linear floor plan, the stage had been moved so that seats rose up on either side, butterfly like. The effect is that when you go see A Beautiful View, you are literally walking into a book, a diary. The stage is the spine, the seats on either side the pages, rising up and just waiting to be read.

A Beautiful View stars Becky Johnson as M and Amy Rutherford as L. The two women turn a chance meeting in a camping goods store into an intimate, long-lasting relationship. Poignant and authentic, seeing this play really is like reading someone’s diary.

At first Mike, my partner for the evening, and I felt a bit awkward. Johnson and Rutherford were opening up to us, sharing intimate secrets, moments after inviting us into their private world. We thought to ourselves “What on earth are these women up to?”

M is like a puppy, following L around, but that soon changes. Johnson’s geeky, awkward character becomes endearing. M tracks L down at her job as a waitress/bartender at an airport bar. A few drinks together turns into a decade long relationship. The two women explore exotic wonderful places where no planes ever land.

Touching, heartfelt, intimate and poignant were words and emotions we felt while “reading this diary”.

As Rutherford’s M warms to L, Mike and I found ourselves warming to both of characters.

There’s something about Rutherford that really appeals to me. She comes across as reserved but not icy, challenging but not bitchy. She seems to have a depth of character, and is perfectly cast as L.

The two come in and out of each other’s lives over the next decade, marrying, divorcing and even seeing the same male psychologist. They eventually team up to more or less have the shrink kicked out of his profession.

All of this might make A Beautiful View seem like an anti-men or ultra-feminist play, but trust me, it isn’t. Mike and I are old school gentlemen who enjoy cheap beer in dive bars and not shaving on weekends, but we developed a kinship with L and M. We both really liked this play.

Another thing I really liked about sitting on the pages of a diary is that it allows for a lot of creative stage presence. Johnson and Rutherford address both sides of the audience, leave the stage at different places, and continue the dialogue. They have the presence of mind to bring back the right props. The amount of “juggling” they do is impressive.

The actors turn up at various locations, sometimes surprisingly. It’s 3D, and it’s surround sound. Why pay thousands and hire a team of professionals when you can experience something way more exciting, and live?

It’s obvious that a lot of love and care has gone into A Beautiful View. When you go see it, notice the wall sconces. Each one is a gorgeous little painting of an outdoor scene. The crew at Volcano Theatre seem to have left no stone unturned for this production.

L and M love camping. Camping has mosquitoes and black flies, and A Beautiful View has a nuisance or two. Mike and I agreed that towards the end of the play the characters started taking themselves way too seriously. I also thought the sound was contrived. There’s foreshadowing and then there’s telegraphing.

I really enjoyed this play and highly recommend it. Why not head over to Factory Theatre and hang out with L and M by the campfire? It sure beats staring down this winter from hell!

Written by Daniel MacIvor, A Beautiful View is fresh from a highly successful run in Munich. Catch it in Toronto while you can, as the play is packing up and sampling camping spots across Ontario in March.

Details:

  • A Beautiful View is playing until March 9 at Factory Theatre, Studio (125 Bathurst Street)
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, with an additional matinee on Saturdays at 2pm and Sunday at 4pm
  • Ticket prices range from $20 – $25, with PWYC on March 4
  • Tickets are available online, or through the box office at (416) 504-9971

Photo of Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford by Hilda Lobinger