Skip to main content

House

Directed by Daniel Brooks

Written and performed

by Daniel MacIvor

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

In Toronto

Rating: ***½

The title of Daniel MacIvor's solo show at Buddies and Bad Times Theatre works on many levels. There's the house that Victor, the main character, shares with his wife of uncertain fidelity, Mary Ann. There's the house as it is traditionally defined in theatre -- i.e., the audience, complicit witnesses to the events on stage.

And there's house as a metaphor for the world we all inhabit, not a warm and welcoming place in MacIvor's vision.

It's life seen as a kind of trap. As Victor notes, I and me, subjective and objective, are both contained within an inescapable "case," or house.

As the 80-minute play, House, opens, Victor strides onto the platform stage and tries out the folding wooden chair that is sitting there. He doesn't like it and hurls it forcefully into the wings. He finds another one, exactly the same, tries and rejects it, then hurls it too.

Victor, an ironic name here, is an angry man. He's not weird like one of his friends. And he appreciates the difference. People, he says, are born weird; "you become fucked up."

The sources of Victor's anger are legion. His father left home to join the circus with an act called "the saddest man in the world." His mother, "in league with the devil," watches television non-stop. His wife (also his third cousin) hates him and gets mail from a swingers' magazine addressed to Veronica, Mistress of Discipline.

And his boss, at the septic-tank company where he has worked as a clerk for 12 years -- forfeiting his ambition to be an engineer -- gives him no respect.

To work out his angry kinks, Victor attends Group, introducing us to another rich cast of dysfunctional characters, including the silent young woman who gnaws on her split ends.

First performed in 1991, House is part of that bright constellation of shows mounted over two decades by da da kamera (founded by MacIvor and producer Sherrie Johnson) and directed by Daniel Brooks.

With the company's recent decision to fold its tent, Buddies this season decided to restage three of da da kamera's shows.

The other two -- Here Lies Henry and Monster -- earlier played to sold-out runs. House deserves no less.

MacIvor is simply masterful. He inhabits Victor's every dimension. His surface is covered with glib sarcasm, but there's a frothing volcano just beneath, expressed in the imaginary little ball that he rolls furiously between his fingers, à la Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny.

He tells an elaborate story of acceptance by his peers and winning sales awards, and then says "if you believe that, you haven't been paying attention." The play's climax involves a similar fantasy, which does not end well.

Daniel Brooks directs almost by disappearing. His adroit hand is here, but all you really see is Victor, this hypnotic loser.

The shutter may be closing on da da kamera, but they are going out in triumph.

House continues at Buddies in Bad Times until April 1 (416-975-8555.)