Daniel MacIvor as Dougie and Andrew Moodie as Allen in MacIvor’s 90-minute, New Magic Valley Fun Town, to April 21 at the Neptune Scotiabank Stage, Halifax. (Leif Norman)
Daniel MacIvor’s New Magic Valley Fun Town is a brilliant, must-see, Cape Breton comedy with deep poignancy and a powerful ending that will leave you shaken and blessed.
The 90-minute drama opened to an immediate standing ovation Friday in Neptune’s studio theatre and is selling quickly for its run to April 21.
A Prairie Theatre Exchange/Tarragon Theatre co-production, presented by Neptune as part of its second stage series, New Magic Valley Fun Town opens with Dougie entering his Cape Breton trailer park home loaded down with groceries, liquor and his Tim Hortons coffee cup.
He’s incredibly excited about a visit from his boyhood friend Allen, whom he hasn’t seen in 25 years. Joining him to prepare and celebrate are his separated wife Cheryl and unhappy daughter Sandy, taking a break from graduate studies and medication or a break from “your break,” according to her dubious and critical mother.
This play features a remarkable performance of intense physicality and emotion by MacIvor as Dougie within an excellent cast of actors whom MacIvor first imagined in these parts as he wrote and workshopped the play.
The bitter bantering and funny interplay between the ill Dougie and Caroline Gillis as Cheryl, a middle-aged, disappointed, religious, gossipy and ultimately loving woman, is sheer delight and so true to life. Gillis and MacIvor have worked so much together over the years that their communication is seamless as Gillis nuances and deepens a familiar type of woman.
MacIvor, a Governor General’s award-winner and Siminovitch Prize winner, often writes uptight, frustrated, angry men who fiercely – and comically – try to control their physical environment as they are psychologically out of control.
Dougie is a neat freak and Brian Perchaluk’s wonderful, highly-detailed set bears that out with a spotless, authentic interior of a kitchen and a livingroom featuring an old, afghan-covered sofa. Outside the home is a beautiful sky with tall pine trees.
Andrew Moodie as Allen is a terrific contrast to the constantly-moving and chatting Dougie. He is held firmly within his body and is wary and warm as this educated, intelligent, reserved man. Stephanie MacDonald, who’s also worked with MacIvor before, fleshes out Sandy into a fully-realized, empathic and comic character.
Director Richard Rose, who is Tarragon’s artistic director, directs for excellent rhythm in a difficult turn from comedy and human elation – which peaks in a fantastic dance scene – to deeper, darker human truths.
The people in New Magic Valley Fun Town communicate indirectly and are all seeking connection. As MacIvor writes in his program notes: “Here’s to poetry that it may save us yet.”
This play, inspired by MacIvor driving by Magic Valley Fun Park on his way to visit his brother in his trailer home, is masterfully written so that by the end you search back to discover the clues that were buried within from the very start.
Lighting designer Kimberly Purtell, original music and sound designer Don Benedictson, choreographer Brenda Gorlick and costume designer Brenda McLean all hit their high notes.
Note: There is an audience advisory that this play touches the aftermath of past trauma.
Starring in New Magic Valley Fun Town are, from left, Daniel MacIvor, Andrew Moodie, Stephanie MacDonald and Caroline Gillis. (Leif Norman)