Looking Inside

Daniel MacIvor's new play fascinates — and flummoxes

Tia (left, Angie Lopez) and Kara (Emily Piggford) in Daniel MacIvor's Inside

Tia (left, Angie Lopez) and Kara (Emily Piggford) in Daniel MacIvor's Inside

Daniel MacIvor’s new play fascinates — and flummoxes

What do an immigration lawyer, a Christian night-club manager and an overconfident war vet have in common? Other than being lousy at love and finding themselves at a night club at precisely 12:02 am on May 12, not a whole lot — but these two commonalities are what Daniel MacIvor explores in Inside, which had its world premiere at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre this month.

Inside introduces us to 11 young characters, all with their own set of issues and anxieties: a manipulative young woman who married for cash and convenience; a frustrated, idealistic activist ready to escalate his actions; an eccentric shut-in living with her queer brother after their mother passes away. We learn a little about these people from their interactions with one another — for the most part, Inside is comprised of 12 two-person scenes, stitched together by some great choral transitions — but the brief encounters aren’t so much about delving deep into the characters so much as showing us the big picture. These 11 souls are desperate to belong, even when they say they aren’t, and it’s only at the play’s over-the-top climax that their desire is realised.

Given that MacIvor worked directly with the students to tweak and rewrite roles to fit them, it’s no surprise that the performances here are largely naturalistic and solid. Angie Lopez as the angry, sassy Tia and Luke Pennock’s self-assured Mason were favourites, and Jesse Cowell as Jimmy, a neurotic man searching for love — and a meal ticket — on the internet drew a lot of laughs with his well-timed delivery. And while the play is mostly two-person scenes (with the occasional signature MacIvor monologue thrown in), some of the best moments were during the ensemble transitions, where director David Ferry has shaped the entire cast into a single flowing, chanting entity that carries us from one situation to another.

The play has a minimal, slick aesthetic. Kendra Terpenning’s dark costumes, emblazoned with words and phrases the characters use in the show, are a great fit with Bryan Kenney’s masterful lighting and Allan Stichbury’s bare-bones set. However, Inside’s denouement is so drastically different from the rest of the play that I couldn’t help but find it a bit off-putting and confusing.

MacIvor throws a lot of ideas at the audience here — at times, one feels that the manifesto put forward by some of Inside’s characters may very well be his own — and not all of them stick. But this is still an intriguing piece of theatre, penned by one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers, and featuring some bright young actors and a stellar creative team. I’d say that’s worth the price of admission to get inside.

InsideTo March 26Phoenix Theatre, UVicTickets $22250-721-8000

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