Friday, March 1, 2019


New Magic Valley Fun Town 
Daniel MacIvor

Daniel MacIvor’s new play, currently running at Tarragon Theatre until March 31st, is a hilariously tragic tour de force that represents his writing and performance style as interwoven streams coming together in a powerful and seamless fashion. Near the end the of this 90 minute dramedy, MacIvor, in the lead role as the slightly bumbling Dougie, repeats a line with the kind of performance strength and style that is immediately recognizable to anyone who has followed his career as a formidable solo performer and a fine ensemble actor/writer. There are traces of House and Monster that seep through as his character takes on eloquently manic gestures that punctuate the narrative with a fine intensity. 
left to right - Daniel MacIvor, Stephanie McDonald, Caroline Gillis, Andrew Moodie

Dougie’s initial appearance opens the play with a well-tuned hilarious entrance as ordinary objects become a kind of silent slapstick introduction to the world of the very conflicted main character. He commands the stage with comic finesse that is soon punctuated by the talents of two performers who match his skill for nuanced emotion and physical agility. Stephanie McDonald as Sandy has a wonderful inebriated dancing/flirting scene where her inhibitions and her poetic/academic prowess are a joy to hear and to watch. Caroline Gillis as Cheryl, Sandy’s Mom, rounds out the familial aspect of the cast with great versatility. Her layered performance represents her as both a fun loving counterpart to Dougie’s complex world and a concerned long term comrade who tries to look out for him in the face of very challenging life events.
Andrew Moodie’s appearance as Allen, a little later in the play, introduces the essential element that moves the comedy toward its climax - a climax that possesses very moving scenes between Dougie and his longtime, long-absent friend. There is a tenderness and concern in their rapport that reveals the strength of the writing and the performing encased within a tightly woven plot that comes full circle to a touching and powerful ending. 

Dougie’s character contains a mixture of grace and pathos that borders on the 'sad old queer' stereotype. But the layered excellence of the performances, and the ways in which Andrew Moodie offsets this tone with a very strong and subtly relaxed presence, culminating in an impassioned plea, alleviates this element by degree. One costume aspect in particular is both poignant and hilarious as it possesses some of the aforementioned stereotypical elderly queer male (or straight man) personality traits. For the sake of comedy this element is both bewildering and effective, and finds wonderful positive closure in a final scene between Allen and Dougie. 
By the end of this fast paced, emotionally riveting play, we find scattered clues to the nature of some small town lives and mentalities that can partially free people from their most difficult challenges, and at other times, lock them endlessly within a troubled past. 

MacIvor’s work has always flirted with queerness in a skilled and effective manner in much the same way that both urban and rural environments construct places for people to be both liberated and/or restrained and hidden within. New Magic Valley Fun Town is no exception to this penchant for engrossing deceptive drama-cum-comedy. The pivotal meeting the play hinges upon is new, there is performance magic, and there is the looming presence of a frequently sorrowful valley, with moments of fun, skirting a kind of rarified town on the edge of the layered emotional world that the script inhabits - a world that takes all of the words in the playwright's title and turns them inside out.

New Magic Valley Fun Town - an engrossing new play about very topical issues that must be seen and never over described in a review. Like the title - and this review - the script is an unfolding parade of adjectives and nouns that come together as a deceptive chain of signifiers that both shroud and reveal distant memories. Memories hidden in a very conflicted past - both happy and sad. A past that might be revealed in order to begin to take part in an attempt to avoid further mayhem…

      New Magic Valley 

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