Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In Daniel MacIvor's latest two hander there is an uneasy tension between the love of a deceased mother and the love of a loyal canine companion. Inspired by his relationship with his own dog, an Italian Greyhound named Buddy, The Best Brothers, currently running at Tarragon Theatre, is a fast paced, hilarious depiction of the familial induced emotional gaps felt by a gay real estate agent and his very straight architect sibling. Set in Toronto's Church Street village the play offers up a smorgasbord of topical delight ranging from the names of local flowers shops to unfortunate gay pride accidents at the corner of Parliament and Wellesley. How a Pride float got that far off the parade route one might wonder, but perhaps I got the intersection wrong. Nevertheless, the intersections between poignancy, comedy, gay, straight, maternal and canine love are  brilliant, touching and beautifully performed - yet tend to stray from the central narrative course at times. 

Coming in at eighty minutes the play wobbles a little in the third quarter as it succumbs to some brief comic flights of fancy that take the nostalgia of boyhood stories to a slightly awkward and bewildering extreme. But there is a very funny childhood Lego story that acts as a powerful metaphor to post-modern predictability and packaged commodification. 

The extreme comedy of a eulogy, shared by the brothers, possesses some fine comic moments yet lapses into a kind of physical comedic interaction that doesn't quite gel all the way through. But ultimately the laughs and the poignant punctuating moments will warm the heart of anyone familiar with the shops and thoroughfares comprising one of North America's largest queer communities. And there are very convincing moments of overlapping repartee between the brothers that reveal the playwright's uncanny knack for tapping into quirky conversational moments that expose the human condition as a universal commingling of laughter and heartache. 
DANIEL MACIVOR                             JOHN BEALE

Like so man of MacIvor's plays, The Best Brothers masterfully creates dialogue and longer solo speeches that beg to be staged with clever moments of blocking and vocal nuance. Both actors are given the opportunity to represent their mother, Bunny, and MacIvor and his co-star John Beale rise to the occasion and infuse the absent matriarch with a fine blend of comic grace and compassion. Dean Gabourie's direction and Julie Fox's set and costume design create an impeccable almost sculptural feel through solid colour and focused playing spaces that allow the narrative to unfold with the same crisp, direct quality of the script. Very creative and concise staging of the movement in and out of the mother monologues sets up theatrical convention in a simple and powerful manner, giving the fast paced quality of the overall piece room to breathe for a few moments before moving back into another eloquent display of a classic struggle between two very different men competing for the love of their very colorful mother.

The canine narrative has prompted Tarragon to set up dog walking for pooch lovers on two nights during the run (Sept 27th evening, Sept 29th matinee). This is a very dog friendly production graced by a powerful, layered script that reveals the intricate ways in which straight, reserved masculinity, and a particular form of flamboyant, mannered 'gayness' can intersect through the presence of a very willful independent woman. Mother Bunny sees the strength of out queerness and the fragility of certain forms of strict heterocentric reserve, and in her absence her sons reveal intersections between the two with great insight and immense entertainment value.


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