The other day was kind of a special day for me. Not only was it an NAC premiere day, not only did I actually meet up and hang out with FamousActressNancyKenny thanks to the magic of cellulophonic technologisms, but…wait, were those the only two reasons..?
No, there WAS one more! The play that night was a Daniel MacIvor piece, COMMUNION. And I’m still working on piling up a decent amount of MacIvor (he being the closest thing the Canadian playwriting scene has to a rock star), having so far accumulated THIS IS A PLAY (twice!), YOU ARE HERE (from the gang at MAY CAN Theatre), WILD ABANDON, HOUSE and THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (starring MacIvor hisself!). Any new rendition is a welcome sight to my fanboy eyes, so I was as excited as a bag of bumblebees for the show. And aside from Miz Kenny (now less than a week away from the premiere of MARY MAGDALENE AND ADVENTURES IN SOBRIETY from Evolution Theatre…get your tickets now!), luminaries like outgoing GCTC chief Lise-Ann Johnson, Margo MacDonald, and…and, yup, by gum, Danny MacIvor himself, in the flesh! It was gonna be a special evening.
The show itself was a very cooly-formed triptych…three scenes, three actors, two sets,and just about as many combinations of those elements as you could manage in an hour and a half. Opening in a psychiatrists office (with the boldest scene of extended, uncomfortable silence since the season two premiere of TWIN PEAKS) beneath a dauntingly high backdrop of a set from designer Victoria Marston, we meet seemingly indifferent Doctor Carolyn (Kathryn MacLellan) and her highly agitato patient Leda (Jenny Munday). Over the course of their one-sided conversation, we learn that Leda is a recovering alcoholic, and is harboring a big secret she has yet to tell her estranged, born-again daughter Annie (Stephanie MacDonald). Scene two brings us to the meeting between Mother and Daughter (with some secrets waiting on Annie’s side, too), in a scene that’s so terrifyingly and amazingly awkward you want to tear your hair out while watching it. The final scene returns us to Carolyn’s office, for an unexpected confrontation that I will say no more about.
COMMUNION is a beautiful show, marked (of course) not only by MacIvor’s deft wordplay, but by some joyously human performances. All three actors are rock-solid…Stephanie MacDonald’s abrasive, know-it-all Annie is so vividly realized I wanted to throttle her (that’s a compliment), and Kath MacLellan does a lovely job transitioning Carolyn from a virtually wordless cipher at the beginning to the person beneath the facade in the finale. It’s Jenny Munday’s vibrant Leda who runs the show, though, in a performance that none who see will likely forget anytime soon. And the themes tackled in the show…faith, family, mortality, AA, and all the choices we make along the way, are woven together in a wondrous way that will keep you thinking. Danny Mac is a smart cookie, and I’m glad that this was the first of his plays to show at the NAC (if only because I was there).
The show was a co-production with Halifax’s KAZAN Co-Op, and directed by VIMY’s Linda Moore, and I hope to see this gaggle of great ladies back again someday. As it was, I settled for the afterparty upstairs, and managed to restrain myself from snapping a cellphone pic of Daniel MacIvor and Lise-Ann Johnson chatting away. It was SOOO tempting.
That’s it for me…a few days off now (although I may get around to some FOOFARAH this Monday, at last), before a busy week of theatre. Which is ALSO at last. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)