CUL-DE-SAC created by Daniel Brooks and Daniel MacIvor, text and performance by MacIvor, directed by Brooks. Presented by Buddies in Bad Times and da da kamera at Buddies (12 Alexander). Runs to October 31, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17-$29, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
There's no more reliable team of theatre artists around than the Daniels, MacIvor and Brooks. In the remount of their latest, Cul-De-Sac , we're treated to a piece that starts quietly and subtly and finally lashes out with megawatt energy.
On a stormy night around 2 am, a low moan slips through the various houses on the dead-end street where the action takes place. We learn something about the gay Leonard, as well as most of his neighbours and one disturbing houseguest.
Moving back and forth in time and from house to house, solo performer Daniel MacIvor gives vivid life to all the characters.
Leonard draws us into this world, as MacIvor creates a character who has both a touch of sarcasm and a knowing smile as well as a sense of naíveté in his dealings with the universe. As we investigate this very un-Mr. Rogers-like neighbourhood, Kimberley Purtell 's blocks of light move us around as skilfully as MacIvor's razor-sharp storytelling and Richard Feren 's soundscape.
There's much to marvel at in the generally rich detail of the characters and the building up of the narrative as pieces of a puzzle.
Sometimes, though, the figures created onstage need more layers. Virginia, with her Gilbert and Sullivan cravings that blend into a Carmen Miranda fascination, is funny but doesn't feel quite as real as the others. The same's true of the guest invited by Leonard. We don't meet him until the end, and he seems more a narrative device than a character.
It's clear that writer/performer MacIvor and director Daniel Brooks , who co-created the show, want this last episode to be the work's climax, but it feels sewn onto the piece rather than grown from it.
Far more engaging are the characters we meet before the introduction of the ultimate character. The most fascinating is 13-year-old Madison, a rebel not yet with a cause but with a desire to strike out against parental figures, while the loquacious Joy provides lots of pleasure too. There's a memorable Christmas party scene in which most of the players make quick entrances and exits.
That segment and others prove the total theatricality of MacIvor's performance. Whether whispering to us gently or shrieking at us with banshee mania, he knows how to own a stage.