Review: New Magic Valley Fun Town (Tarragon Theatre)

Tarragon Theatre presents a new play by Daniel MacIvor in Toronto

New Magic Valley Fun Town is wonderfully funny, extremely moving, and quintessentially Nova Scotian.  This new play is written by, and starring, Daniel MacIvor. You can catch it at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave.) from now until March 31st.

New Magic Valley Fun Town captures the lives of a family of Cape Bretoners in their hilarious nuances. It opens with lighthearted comedy, but by the end you may get a bit misty eyed.  With great acting and writing, I found this play to be immensely rewarding.

I go into all Tarragon shows expecting a high level of quality, but what astounded me with New Magic Valley Fun Town was the depth and sagacity that is slowly revealed as the play progresses. In the talkback after our performance, MacIvor himself described the show as ‘starting with slapstick and closing with a poem’ (paraphrasing).

What I enjoyed most about this play is how each of the scenes added another layer of depth. At first, we see MacIvor arrive home playing Dougie. He carries a case of Molson and a handful of bags from NoFrills. He curses trying to get everything onto the counter. It’s very funny, and funnier still when his ex-wife Cheryl (Caroline Gillis) and daughter Sandy (Stephanie) arrive later.

These three actors have worked together before and it shows in their chemistry. Across the board each of them was charming in their own way. Later, Dougie’s childhood friend Allen (Andrew Moodie) arrives; a U of T professor who moved out of Cape Bretton many years ago, Allen brings novelty and a new perspective to Dougie’s trailer.

When the four threw a rowdy party full of dancing, I found myself wishing I could be up there with them.  The issues the show deals with later on are complex and layered with emotion. The shift from comedy to drama was smooth and incredibly well-executed.

I think one of the first things I said to my friend Sean when we sat down in the theatre was that I wasn’t sure what to think of the set. A simple trailer; very detailed in its design, but just very simple. And yet, I quickly changed my mind about that. The space feels lived in, and the actors bring it to life with dancing and drinking. They really make it feel like Dougie’s home.

This is a lovely show with interesting, charming characters who’ll pull at your heartstrings. With each scene, the humour and simplicity of their lives is stripped away and what we’re left with is a very honest and vulnerable look at these characters and their past experiences. My friend and I were both extremely impressed by New Magic Valley Fun Town, and I highly recommend getting out to see it.

  • New Magic Valley Fun Town is playing at the Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave) until March 31, 2019.
  • Showtimes are Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 pm, with weekend matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm.
  • Tickets are $55 with student and senior discounts.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the box office.
  • Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
  • Audience Advisory: This production contains coarse language and mature content.

Photo of Caroline Gillis, Andrew Moodie, Daniel MacIvor and Stephanie MacDonald by Cylla vonTiedemann