Created and performed
by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks
At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
It's been almost a decade since writer and actor Daniel MacIvor teamed up with director and writer Daniel Brooks to create the one-man show Monster. It was one of a series of collaborative works that emerged from their theatre company, da da kamera, produced by Sherrie Johnson. The principals have now decided to move on to other things, but not before Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre restages some of their most powerful work in a kind of farewell and justly celebratory season.
Monster, which opened this week, has been particularly successful, winning Governor-General's Award nominations for both MacIvor and Brooks, and playing to critical and popular acclaim on three continents.
On the evidence of the Buddies remount, it's not hard to see why. In roughly 80 minutes, which fly by, MacIvor and Brooks bring all of their considerable theatrical gifts to bear. The result neatly fuses acting, sound and lighting into a darkly comic and deeply unsettling vignette about our modern predicament.
Rooted to one spot on the stage for almost the entire performance, MacIvor plays a dozen separate roles. There's Adam, the everyman narrator about whom we know very little. There are Al and Janine, a young couple whose premarital bickering seems a harbinger of trouble. There's Monty, the kid obsessed with the hacksaw murder -- a son slaying a father -- committed in the basement of the family next door, the Boyles. There's Joe, a reformed addict who wants to produce a movie based on the grisly killing, but stands accused of stealing the idea from Jerry (Buster) Foster, a retired producer who never completed his film, Hack. All of these seemingly disparate narrative threads eventually connect, like a hand that reaches from behind a curtain in a darkened room and grips you by the throat.
MacIvor slips vocally and physically into and out of these characters, effortlessly and often at high speed, abetted by Andy Moro's strategic lighting and Richard Feren's creepy score.
It's a tour de force underscored by a grim message -- that we inhabit a bleak and implacable world in which we are all capable of becoming monsters. This is the real reality show, the flip side of Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver, those archetypal family TV sitcoms of the 1950s and 60s, where a little chat with dad could resolve the heaviest problems in 24 minutes.
That happy construct, MacIvor and Brooks are insisting, is not only false and artificial, but exacts an enormous societal toll, creating a make-believe standard of behaviour impossible to meet. The ensuing frustration and anger eventually unleashes the demons within -- abuse, addiction, violence -- revenge for the myriad sins inflicted upon us. Monster, refusing to let us live with comfortable denial, forces us to acknowledge the heart of darkness within. Definitely worth seeing if you haven't already, and worth seeing again if you have.
MacIvor and Brooks are two of the most original minds now working in Canadian theatre. We should all hope that the curtain coming down on da da kamera does not signal the end of their fruitful partnership.
Monster runs at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Feb. 4