Though Daniel MacIvor may be the king of the one-man show, he spends an awful lot of time in his latest solo act, This Is What Happens Next, saying sorry.
He careens into the theatre through the audience clutching a Starbucks coffee and apologizing for being late before launching into a hilarious story about being held up behind two ladies and a barrista who can’t count. Then, as he slips into costume, he apologizes for creating another solo show after having promised to give them up several years ago.
It’s unlikely the audience is too stung by his relapse.
In This Is What Happens Next, a co-production of Necessary Angel and Canadian Stage, MacIvor promises his most autobiographical show to date. While the show is replete with the sort of grotesquely mundane characters whose slowly revealed interconnectedness has been a staple of MacIvor’s past solo hits Monster, House and Cul-de-Sac, MacIvor’s innovation this time around is in playing himself as a sort of emcee of the evening.
From the top, he explains that his decision to return to solo performance comes after his experiences with addiction in the wake of the dissolution of his marriage. He’s searching for the relationship between free will and happiness, and even wheels out the classic Hollywood “happy ending” music while explaining the details of his breakup to demonstrate that happiness can’t be created by force of will.
Or can it?
Spurred on by the desire to reclaim some of his personal effects he left with his husband — who got the house in the divorce (an eerie echo of MacIvor’s previous show House) — MacIvor creates an avatar of himself called Warren to retrieve the items.
Along the hilarious and looping story, we also meet: Susan, the troubled family lawyer handling Warren’s case; Aaron, the pre-op female-to-male transsexual astrologer who has a date with her that night; the Father, Aaron’s alcoholic ex-brother-in-law; and his precocious son Kevin, whose vividly imagined story about a terrible giant’s battle with a demon who lives in his head is the key to the playwright’s attitude toward free will.
Ultimately, MacIvor delivers a frustrating choose-your-own-ending that is either far too deliberate and melodramatic, or a happier ending that ties up all of the outstanding plot threads via the caprices of fate. It’s a curious universe he creates, where free will may be unsatisfyingly predictable and happiness comes from abandoning agency and surrendering to whatever happens next.
This Is What Happens Next plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, until May 8. Tickets from $20. 416-368-3110. www.canstage.com