It is through the partnership of Theatre Kingston and Volcano Theatre that “A Beautiful View“, Daniel MacIvor’s play about another partnership, is currently playing in the Baby Grand Studio. Two women appear on stage and tell the story of their relationship. Sound simple? Of course it does. But of course it’s not.
As is typical of MacIvor’s work, “A Beautiful View” is far from a neatly packaged, linear and straightforward night at the theatre. In this case, though, such is entirely suitable because the same can be said of the nature of self-identity, friendship, and love as explored in the piece. Just like any meaningful relationship, the play demands a level of commitment – a combination of effort and perseverance to see it through to its end. For it’s only at the end that the various elements of the narrative come full circle and truly make sense. For those who manage to navigate the entire journey of the two performers, it is a beautiful and touching experience. The risk, however, is that there will, no doubt, also be some audience members who find themselves left behind, with more questions than answers – quite possibly appreciating the artistic merit of the production, but not fully understanding it. Kind of like a box of light.
The two young women featured in this Volcano Theatre production, Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford, are exceptional in their individual performances, but truly shine as a pair. While Johnson’s character approaches the dynamic relationship with more curiosity and levity, Rutherford brings a complimentary gravity to the piece. But the respective role of each in this partnership is anything but static – and it’s the constant shifting in control, tension, and interdependence that make for such a compelling story. “Chemistry” is an often over-used term, but in this instance these women most definitely have it and they generously share it, drawing the audience even further into their affectionate tale.
A simple set, running through the middle of the Baby Grand and dividing the audience into two, offers them a liberating playground to ply their craft. Although effective as an intimate yet detached space suitable to the episodic nature and themes of the play, director Ross Manson’s alley-staging does often make it necessary to consciously decide which of the two performers will be the benefactor of your attention at any point in time. This can be distracting in itself, and maybe more irksome is the awareness that you could be – and very likely are – missing something quite meaningful in the other’s reaction. (A tip: As you choose your seat in the theatre, it cannot hurt to be aware of who is sitting across from you…no matter your degree of focus or the quality of the performance, excessive movement from a fellow patron will inevitably draw your attention.)
It must be noted that the imaginative and effective lighting design of Rebecca Picherack adds incredible depth and dimension to the world of the play, and further enhances both the beauty and the turmoil. The music, composed by Krister Schuchardt, is also quite good, but there seemed to be some inconsistency in the sound levels throughout the production, which stood out given how tight all of the other technical elements were under the stewardship of Stage Manager A.J. Laflamme.
Kingston theatre-goers are seldom treated to an artistic work of this nature presented at such high a calibre. “A Beautiful View” is a provocative work that can and should be appreciated on many levels. (4/5 Stars)
“A Beautiful View”, by Daniel MacIvor, is a Volcano Theatre production, presented in partnership with Theatre Kingston…It is directed by Ross Manson, featuring Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford… The play runs in the Baby Grand Studio Theatre, from March 12th to 23rd with an 7:30 pm curtain, with some matinee performances…Tickets available at the Grand Theatre Box Office, online or by calling 613-530-2050…Remaining available tickets can be purchased at the door…
Another fine review! I agree that the production is very high in quality, and the performances both excellent.
I was thinking afterwards of the interesting comparison that can be made between A Beautiful View and Never Swim Alone. In the latter, the two men lose any kind of shared understanding and intimacy they might have had in all the relentless competition, but we see that they once had a chance to be so much more, a squandered chance that is embodied in the girl who is the referee. In A Beautiful View, the loss of the possible intimacy is not given quite so vivid a moment. Instead, it is like something sort of glimpsed out of the corner of one’s eye before it disappears. And there is also the constant competition, although where Never Swim is so very male, Beautiful View is naturally very female. Both types of competition seem completely ludicrous and completely familiar at the same time. That MacIvor is one brilliant writer.
He certainly is! It’s been a while since I have seen one of MacIvor’s plays – and I think this may actually be the first that I have ever attended without the benefit of having read the script beforehand. In that regard, I almost feel as though I have cheated myself over the years, given the pleasure I had in watching this show unfold, like a flower opening up, unsure as to what it would reveal…
I also loved this show about how horribly lonely it is to be a solo human being and how extremely frightening it is to commit one’s self completely to another human being. One character is quite ready to accept someone else’s definition of her, but equally ready to walk away from that when another definer beckons. The other character recoils from being defined at all–even by herself, but still yearns to be part of something. Their adventures are reflected in two metaphors: playing in a band and camping in the wilderness in a flimsy tent. At first the band is hypothetical and goofy. It gradually becomes real and serious and finally a duo after the drummer complicates things.. At first the tent is in a store, then a campground and then in the wilderness. The penultimate moment of the band is a charming love song, of the tent is a beautiful vision shared only by the two, at which moment they are eaten by a bear. Love defines you and then consumes you.
I also noticed the discomfort of deciding which actor to watch when the director placed them at opposite ends of the traverse stage. I sort of wonder, though, if it was planned, and permitted us to experience with them the pain of being separated and the pleasure of being united.
I would certainly assume that it was a conscious decision, Gord – especially since it is my understanding that the playing area in the Baby Grand is actually quite smaller than some of the other venues this production has played in…For me, it went beyond discomfort, to the extent that it took me out of such moments in the play and into my head…Again, quite possibly intentional, but I spend too much time there as it is 😉 …