New Magic Valley Fun Town
A co-production with Prairie Theatre Exchange and the Tarragon Theatre
Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Richard Rose
Assistant direction by Audrey Dwyer
Music and sound design by Don Benedictson
Choreography by Brenda Gorlick
Costume design by Brenda McLean
Set design by Brian Perchaluk
Lighting design by Kim Purtell
Featuring: Caroline Gillis, Stephanie MacDonald, Daniel MacIvor, Andrew Moodie
Now playing at the Tarragon Theatre
The playwright and actor, Daniel MacIvor, makes an interesting observation in the program notes to his latest work, New Magic Valley Fun Town. In thanking the artistic team who worked on his play, he makes special mention of the actors: “I had these actors in mind when writing and they were all part of the initial workshop reading of the first draft of the play with our director Richard Rose here at Tarragon over two years ago.”
Although there is nothing new in a playwright writing a play with particular actors (and in this case even a director) in mind for particular roles, it’s still a high compliment for any actor to be able to say in retrospect one day, “Well, you know, the playwright actually wrote that character with me in mind to play the role!”
As I watched this perfect little gem of a play, certainly a stand out in the current Toronto season, it occurred to me that MacIvor’s writing resembles a déclassé Noel Coward. When he states that he is writing with certain actors in mind, he also means (like Coward) that he is writing with himself in mind. Playing the lead role of Dougie, the erstwhile Cape Bretoner who is trying to make sense out of a world with mores that ebb and flow like the Bay of Fundy, MacIvor has created a wonderful role for himself.
It doesn’t hurt at all that he is from Cape Breton, it just adds to the whole authentic ring of the piece. This goes as well for the others in the cast; his separated wife Cheryl (Caroline Gillis), who now lives alone in their house while Dougie is holed up in a trailer park home; their frustrated daughter, Sandy (Stephanie MacDonald), who has high aspirations but little wherewithal to obtain them; and Allen (Andrew Moodie), Dougie’s childhood best friend who is now a university professor in Toronto. The whole purpose of the evening is to have a welcome-home-Allen party who has come from away after twenty-five years.
The topical humor and complicated subtext of the story unfolds naturally from beginning to end and addresses issues that were passed off as benign three decades ago but revisited today – well, things change. And then of course, there is the party itself with the inevitable loosening of the tongue after a few drinks. Not a rousing Cape Breton kitchen ceilidh type party mind you, but, centered as it is around Allen’s return, it serves the purpose of the play very well.
The ending, without disclosing the play’s secret, is a lovely elliptical interaction between father and daughter that doesn’t attempt to give us all the answers to every question raised in the storyline. We’re left with the feeling that only the passage of time can do that, and this play runs for only 90 minutes.