2 min

This is it

Play reverberates long after the characters have left the stage

Credit: Xtra files

The unexpected lurks around every deftly written corner in Daniel MacIvor’s In On It. Just as the writer and director gets going on his opening speech, co-star Darren O’Donnell interrupts with “Are you sure that’s a good way to start?” This is the first of many intriguing shifts of perspective that invite the audience to question where reality stops and the play begins.

MacIvor plays an aloof playwright labelled This One, while That One (O’Donnell) is the approachable boyfriend-cum-dramaturge. Together they stage This One’s current project, a drama about a man named Ray whose health and marriage are falling apart.

This One and That One also critique the evolving play, trying out new ideas and even arguing about the tongue-in-the-ear poster. Their relationship, beginning with meeting at the commitment ceremony of mutual friends, is the third narrative strand – a gay storyline running counterpoint to the straight play they’re performing.

MacIvor’s superb stagecraft effortlessly binds these unchronological threads together. Changes of lighting, crisply engineered by Kimberly Purtell, help signal changes of character. The two even trade characters in the play within the play-about-a-play, exchanging a black jacket, the production’s only prop. All of this makes us wonder whether This One and That One are one and the same.

A goofy dance set to Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit “Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows,” is the production’s pinnacle of fun. Composer Richard Feren contributes a soundscape that heightens the mood in all the right places.

The relationship between MacIvor-as-playwright and O’Donnell-as-boyfriend, however, is the warm beating heart within MacIvor’s steely formalist structure. The stages of the relationship are painted with succinct, funny strokes, and there’s much here that anyone’s who’s had a relationship will recognize.

All of this unfolds against an all-black stage, so when colour appears it makes an impact. The two get caught up in a moment of sexual excitement and are bathed in unexpected red light, though the blackout comes before the kiss. The cool end of the spectrum takes the shape of references to a blue Mercedes, a metallic seed of destruction planted in the opening speech.

Before the hurtling Mercedes ties up this tightly-woven 75 minutes, MacIvor gives us a number of endings to choose from, each failing to reflect the fractured way we experience the world. Taken together they cap off a very satisfying whole. The questions raised about the interplay of art and human relationships continue to reverberate once the characters have left the stage.

* In On It continues until Sun, Aprl 7 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St); call 975-8555.