Never Swim Alone by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Jason Fraser, with Matt Ritchie, Dustin Olson and Philippa Dwyer. Presented by Nordheimer Theatre at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George). Runs to June 23, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-927-1976. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Even performed for a crowd of seven (including director and box office clerk), this modest production of Daniel MacIvor's 1991 work Never Swim Alone stays afloat.The short work about machismo, competition and one memorable afternoon at the beach is buoyed up by Jason Fraser's direction. He shapes scenes cleanly -- a must for MacIvor -- and there's a nice use of the space, especially in a sequence where one of the duelling men walks us through his home in a territorial flourish.
MacIvor's works play with fantasy and reality, and it's up to us to piece together their mysteries. The actors seem a bit too young for their roles, but they easily suggest the secrets and lies buried beneath their characters' surfaces, though the intense Dustin Olson seems slightly more secure with his role than his opposite number (Matt Ritchie). Philippa Dwyer's referee gains in mystery and power throughout the show.
Some lighting cues aren't as sharp as they could be (Laird Macdonald's design is too ambitious, I think), but the work still bristles with tension.