HIS GREATNESS by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Ed Roy (Independent Artists Repertory Theatre). At Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Opens tonight (Thursday, September 22) and runs to October 23, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday 2 pm, Sunday 3 pm. $40-$60, some Sunday pwyc. 416-504-9971. See listing.
Last week Greg Gale auditioned for a summer gig using Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.
This week he's in rehearsals for Daniel MacIvor's His Greatness, playing a hustler bought to service a fictionalized version of the gay Williams.
Covering two days in the life of the Playwright, as Williams is called in the play, it's billed as a potentially true story about Williams in 1980, when the Vancouver Playhouse produced his rewritten The Red Devil Battery Sign.
"My character is simply called Young Man, and like me, he's an ex-East Coaster," explains Gale, who appeared in Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show last year. "He's made his way across Canada and eventually plans to find fame and fortune in the States.
"But he meets hurdles along the way and hustles to live, trapping himself in a cycle of making money and then losing it, along with his stability."
Power games played by the Playwright, the Young Man and a third character, the Playwright's Assistant, drive the action. It's also fuelled by various addictions, including drugs, booze, sex and, in the case of the well-known writer, a need for adulation.
"At first the Young Man doesn't know what to make of the Playwright. He's a kind of father figure, but as a client he's totally strange," says Gale. "My character has to figure out how to play him, how to keep the upper hand. In fact, I'm not sure he ever has it, though he thinks he does.
"But as the play evolves, he realizes that the older man is magic, embodying the element of fame, so attractive and elusive for the Young Man."
It's been a thrill for Gale to work with two other East Coast performers, veteran Richard Donat (who, coincidentally, performed in Vancouver's The Red Devil Battery Sign) and MacIvor himself, who plays the Assistant.
Gale admits he was initially shy about working with MacIvor, whose writing he's studied and used for auditions, but he now feels a real bond with the playwright.
Is the Playwright Williams?
"Daniel's left it intentionally ambiguous, but he conjures a sense of Williams in the writing's sensuality and imagery."