Two hot shows make welcome returns
A BEAUTIFUL VIEW by Daniel MacIvor (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To May 24. $15-$45. 416-531-1827. See Continuing. Rating: NNNNN
I, CLAUDIA by Kristen Thomson (Crow’s Theatre/Young Centre, 55 Mill). To May 23. $20-$35. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNNNN
Two of the best shows in recent memory are back this month. Even if you know one or both, see them again.
You’ll find layers of new meaning and emotion that only come from the passage of time. The fact that they’re being remounted at different venues from their original ones changes the feel and look of each piece.
Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View first played at Buddies mainspace. Now at the Tarragon Extra Space, it’s more intimate and immediate, which adds to the haunting effect.
Two unnamed women (Caroline Gillis and Tracy Wright) enter a nearly empty space, where before long they begin recounting, in episodes that are alternately funny and sad (sometimes both) their history.
They meet cute at a sporting goods store, hook up again (not quite by chance), and over several years become an on-again, off-again couple. And then comes a disastrous Halloween party.
Gillis and Wright expertly suggest two characters who are removed from the events they’re enacting where they are at present is one of the work’s mysteries. The Tarragon space lets you monitor their grudging denials and final acceptances.
Wright’s shrugged-shoulders delivery and seen-it-all attitude mask as much pain and vulnerability as Gillis’s chattiness. (Gillis’s dimples actually make her character more heartbreaking.)
MacIvor directs so that maximum poetry emerges from his seemingly simple elements. Michael Laird’s music and sound design makes clever use of an old boom box, while Kimberly Purtell lights the work so effectively, you’ll believe you’re in a Queen West gallery or a spooky campground.
Kristen Thomson last remounted I, Claudia (pictured above) at the same intimate space where A Beautiful View is now playing. The Young Centre’s stage is bigger, but Thomson and her gallery of characters fill it effortlessly.
Precocious pre-teen Claudia has seemingly adjusted to her parents’ divorce when she learns her dad is going to be remarrying. Thomson, using Abdelkader Farrah’s expressive masks, fills out Claudia’s world with monologues by her step-mom-to-be, Leslie, as well as her grandfather and – the honorary MC of the show – the school janitor, who’s been keeping an eye on the girl.
The script is subtle and honest in the way it lays bare human weaknesses and lets us see the sad old cycles of blame and recrimination. Thomson is better than ever at delineating each character through voice (listen to the way the high pitches of Claudia’s and Leslie’s voices express anxiety) and movement.
Speaking of movement, director Chris Abraham allows a lot more of it in this production, designed by Julie Fox. Claudia runs around hiding things, and good use is made of a full-length mirror and a red curtain.
All of this works well in the big space where, for 75 glorious minutes, we truly believe we’re sitting in a damp school basement watching lives change forever.