CUL-DE-SAC created by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, directed by Brooks, with MacIvor. Presented by da da kamera at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to May 31, Thursday-Saturday 8:30 pm. $30-$35. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Leonard, the central character in Daniel MacIvor's and Daniel Brooks's Cul-de-Sac, admits near the end of the show that we hardly got to know him. It's a poignant moment, both true and false. We've just spent 80 minutes in his charming, witty company, and watched while his neighbours have offered us their impressions of him, too, which sometimes contradict what we've already heard.If we don't know him, how well can we know anybody? That's one of the big themes in this strong, subtly written work, vividly realized by performer MacIvor and director Brooks.
On a stage bare except for a single chair and Kimberly Purtell's square shafts of light that clearly suggest space and time, MacIvor takes us through Leonard's dying moments just after 2 in the morning. The actor transforms himself back and forth from Leonard to his neighbours, who include everyone from a stooped-over retired vet to a pair of genteel snobs. Each recalls what he or she felt upon hearing what turned out to be Leonard's final sounds on that rainy night. Was it a cat? Was the classical music too loud?
Gradually, we piece together bits of Leonard's life. He was a middle-aged gay man. He had recently broken up with a more sophisticated lover. He enjoyed a special kinship with a precocious 13-year-old girl neighbour. He was killed by a drugged-out hustler he drunkenly took home. Does that make up a life?
MacIvor's never been stronger as a performer, and it's especially enjoyable to see him slink from a neighbour's report to Leonard's comment on what we've witnessed. What Leonard doesn't tell us is just as suggestive as what he does.
True, some of the characterizations are too broad, and MacIvor misses the genuine utterances of a real 13-year-old. But this da da kamera show marking the return of MacIvor and Brooks as collaborators is better than 90 per cent of shows that open. Cul-de-Sac might be a fancy euphemism for "dead end," but theatrically it's a live wire.