A Beautiful View
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 18, 2007
A Beautiful View is a new piece written and directed by Daniel MacIvor, a Canadian theatre artist who, despite an Obie Award and several excellent productions in New York's off-off-Broadway theatres of his plays, remains "under the radar" in the world of mainstream theatre. May this exquisite, compelling new work bring an end to that. This is theatre that engages its audience, grabbing hold of them and never letting go as it takes them on a remarkable, moving journey. Often very funny and occasionally a little sad, A Beautiful View constantly surprises us, the way that life does.
It begins with its two characters—nameless women, possibly near middle age (played splendidly by Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis)—walking silently and alone onto the stage. A boombox is the only prop until one of the women brings in first one folding chair, then another. The women don't interact, and we can tell right away that it's deliberate. Eventually, both sit, the first looking toward the second, but then the second shifts and subtly turns most of her body away from her companion and from us. "They'll think you don't like me," the first admonishes; the second returns to a more neutral posture and then the two are ready, as they tell us, to begin.
What follows is a series of flashbacks tracing their history, interspersed with comments (casually confided to us, breaking the fourth wall) and quick, efficient changes of the very spare set. The women first meet in a sporting goods store, in front of a camping tent display. Their rapport is immediately evident—and so is their very human need to compensate for supposed inadequacies by lying (or, as one of them puts it, wishful thinking). They meet again, in a bar where a local band is playing, and the white lies escalate enough that one of them feels compelled to find the other at her job (an airport bar) to come clean.
This third encounter leads to something richer and deeper and entirely unforeseen. One of the most interesting aspects of A Beautiful View is the way it plays with labels vis-a-vis sexuality; neither woman thinks of herself as a lesbian, but we see them fall in love, in a gorgeous, sexy seduction that's artfully staged by MacIvor in the same stunning, evocative, minimalist style that characterizes the entire piece.
Their relationship after this pivotal night is spotty and on-and-off, across decades; like so much of human interaction, it's littered with miscommunication and missed opportunities. When finally they arrive at the place they were at the start of the show—and the exact nature of that place cannot be revealed here; it's the main, magical mystery of this play, containing its most significant point—much has been learned, mostly about how little is ever learned in a lifetime about nurturing and cherishing what really matters. "Nothing is enough" is a phrase oft repeated by these two women, and both of its possible meanings resonate throughout.
MacIvor's staging, conjuring myriad locations almost literally out of thin air, is near-miraculous; ditto the performances by Wright and Gillis. Kimberly Purtell's lighting and Michael Laird's sound and music complete the picture. A Beautiful View is a splendid introduction to MacIvor's singular theatre style, and deserving of a long life beyond the Under the Radar Festival: check it out.