Audiences may not exactly get ‘in on it’ by the end, but there’s no denying the strangely sweet charm of Daniel MacIvor’s metatheatrical play.
Running now at Lunchbox Theatre, MacIvor’s In On It stages two characters named This One (Mark Bellamy) and That One (Stafford Perry) trapped in liminal space – an in-between place where life has yet to disappoint. Really, it’s a rehearsal for a play underway in front of the Lunchbox audience. Going through various scenes, the actors take turns playing the play’s different characters, interpreting them as they see fit. The play-within-a-play deals primarily with an average somebody named Ray who has a terminal illness, at least until the tests say otherwise. Ray’s son is a self-centered adman, his wife is a boozy adulterer, and his father can’t recognize him due to memory loss. Lonely, Ray contemplates ending his life.
There’s also a young boy who’s abandoned by his step-dad, or more accurately his mom’s boyfriend. Ray and the boy have more common with each other than they know.
The scenes are frequently interrupted and criticized by the actors who just can’t see eye-to-eye creatively. The audience eventually learns that the actors are gay partners. Their differences are both creative and personal, shaping the scenes and their characters’ motivations accordingly. And so, the constant editing that occurs between them becomes more about what they want from each other in their relationship than the play itself. The stage acts as a place of reconciliation between the roles we play and the faces we hide.
(MacIvor would later use the same metatheatrical device in his 2006 play A Beautiful View, which Sage Theatre produced during its 2014-15 season.)
MacIvor playfully subverts audience expectations by opting for reality – which some audiences like to escape from by going to the theatre – than comforting fiction. The liminal space mentioned earlier is an imagined place from the future that comes full circle to a car accident. There are the stories we tell, and then the stories we would like to tell. The truth lies somewhere in-between.
In On It is a play about opposites, namely two opposite people trying to meet in the middle. What unfolds here is that struggle for human connection.
Director Samantha MacDonald finds and brings out the oddly inspiring essence of MacIvor’s play. MacDonald’s energetic, yet precise direction makes clear the connective tissues of this play, a challenge given that MacIvor doesn’t exactly spell out the whole thing. MacDonald demonstrates a clear and confident vision for this play that features multiple threads running at once.
What’s remarkable about this production is that Perry stepped into his role just one week before opening. Christian Goutsis was originally scheduled to play That One but had to withdraw from the production due to a family emergency. The cast and crew rehearsed the play in five days with Perry. For five days rehearsal, the result is truly incredible. Perry and Bellamy are absolutely wonderful together. The actors bring out so much from one another in this play of emotional highs and lows.
MacIvor has a knack for writing plays that stay with you on the drive home, and In On It is no different. Some audience members may feel lost trying to connect the dots, while some will appreciate MacIvor’s open-to-interpretation approach. Regardless, there’s no denying the strangely sweet charm of this play about life, relationships, and regret.
Daniel MacIvor’s In On It runs March 21 – April 9 at Lunchbox Theatre.
For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.lunchboxtheatre.com/in-on-it/