Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor. A Ruby Slippers Theatre Company production. At Performance Works on Saturday, December 5. Continues at Performance Works until December 13, and at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts from December 16 to 19
You know how babies clap their hands when they’re delighted? That’s how I felt watching this Ruby Slippers production of Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View.
The premise is hilarious. Two women—the flaky Mitch and the no-nonsense Linda—meet in an outdoors store. Each mistakes the other for a lesbian, and allows herself to be “seduced”. It’s not until they run into each other by accident in a campground sometime later—long enough for Linda to have met and married a man—that the truth comes out. The two become nonsexual friends, an unlikely but enduring couple.
At its best—as it is here—MacIvor’s work is both clever and compassionate. The basic idea of the play is that the labels we give ourselves don’t tell the whole story. Like many of us, Mitch and Linda are more complex than the terms straight and gay can contain. Classification isn’t the point; experience is, and these two love each other. MacIvor gives theatrical form to the notion that categorization and even language are suspect: Mitch and Linda’s mutual seduction begins when they agree to sit together in silence. And as you sit in that silence with them—at this point in the play, and others—there’s a giddy sense of free fall, like anything might happen, and the understandings we share with the actors feel like secrets.
Both Colleen Wheeler (Linda) and Diane Brown (Mitch) are fantastic. Brown exudes a winning combination of ditziness and wary vulnerability. Wheeler’s Linda is as grounded as dirt, a goddess with an ironic sense of humour. Neither actor grandstands. Neither strikes a false note. What a duet.
As much as MacIvor loves the pairing of silence and words, he loves darkness and light. Here, lighting designer John Webber does a brilliant job of realizing the latter part of that vision. In my favourite cue, a narrow corridor of illumination connects the two women, who both stand in bright but separate squares.
After the characters have stumbled through their initial confusion about identity, and before they hit a crisis in their friendship, the exhilarating tension of the play goes a bit slack, but that’s okay because the developing relationship remains so tender and eccentric. The ending is more problematic. The playwright, who has championed complexity all evening, suddenly imposes a predictable, forced, and reductive resolution.
Don’t let that criticism get in the way of your catching the show, though. The reason that I go to the theatre is thatI hope to have experiences like the one I had at A Beautiful View.