i went to neptune's new studio play friday night - daniel macivor's a beautiful view. i interviewed macivor and actress jackie torrens before the show opened and have pasted my CC review below.
meanwhile, in leixcal news, my friend and fellow pottersfield writer steven laffoley has a great new book out called death ship of halifax harbour, an exploration of the 1866 ship that lurched into halifax harbour oozing with cholera. steven's a great writer and this promises to be a great book - and where does he end up on the herald's best-seller list? at number 2: right behind Lexicon Volume 11. that's the same book that kept me off the top of the list. we both clearly need to use more crosswords.
A Beautiful View
It opens with a long silence. A woman comes out, looks at us, says nothing. She kind of smiles, kind of winces, leaves. Another woman comes out, like she’s looking for the first, but she stays silent. She sees us.
The audience is unsettled. Is it a comedy? Are they trying to be serious? Did they forget their lines? Is this some sort of awful avant-garde theatre?
And so before even a word of Daniel MacIvor’s beautiful script is spoken, the Cape Breton-born playwright has us where he wants us: unsure and on edge. A Beautiful View soon warms up as Mandy (Kathryn MacLellan) and Liz (Jackie Torrens) break the silence – and the tension – by rolling into easy conversation. They’re talking about their 20-year relationship, and all the old familiar stories. How they met at the tent store, then the concert. How they fall in … to whatever it is they’re in. And of course That Night, when it all went wrong. Wandering between the past and the present, knocking down and lifting up the fourth wall, stumbling from comedy to tragedy to farce, A Beautiful View is a beautiful play.
I spoke to Torrens before the play and suggested it was Brokeback Mountain for women. She laughed for a long time, then froze me with a superserious stare. It’s not about women, it’s about humans, she said. It’s not about love, or friendship, or lesbians or straight people (Mandy and Liz are both relieved and confused when they find out neither of them are lesbians). It’s not about putting things into tidy boxes. It’s about the freeing, stressful uncertainty of not naming everything.
Mandy and Liz play a dangerous game of love and chance, soul mates who aren’t sure they have souls. Mandy notices a sign on Liz’s fridge: Nothing is enough.
Nothing is enough? Or Nothing is enough?
It’s a masterfully ambiguous phrase and it defines the play. Liz and Mandy tell us the critical stories in their lives, breezing over all the marriages, jobs and wanderings that pull them apart, remembering only the times that brought them together. “Nothing is enough” haunts the play and it seems their fate rests on which way they understand the words.
MacLellan is superb as the scattered, nervous, funny and flirty Mandy, and Torrens entrances with her cynical, jaded and deeply hopeful Liz. MacIvor’s script sounds unscripted, so that the big lines jump out and capture you like hard-won wisdom.
While the big show dances and dazzles around pretty infatuation next door at Fountain Hall, A Beautiful View travels deep into real love.
Jon Tattrie is a freelance journalist and novelist in Halifax. He would like to report that on opening night, there wasn’t a dour face in the house – not even his.
BOX: A Beautiful View is at Neptune’s Studio Theatre until Oct. 31. Go to Neptunetheatre.com or call 429-7070.