Gregor McElvogue, Matthew Hager, and Dana Marks Work Their Theatrical Magic on “In on It”

Matthew Hager (left) and Gregor McElvogue star in "In on It" at Manbites Dog Theater May 24-June 9 (photo by Alex Maness)
Matthew Hager (left) and Gregor McElvogue star in "In on It" at Manbites Dog Theater May 24-June 9 (photo by Alex Maness)
Matthew Hager (left) and Gregor McElvogue star in "In on It" at Manbites Dog Theater May 24-June 9 (photo by Alex Maness)
Matthew Hager (left) and Gregor McElvogue star in "In on It" at Manbites Dog Theater May 24-June 9 (photo by Alex Maness)

Canadian actor and playwright Daniel MacIvor’s 2002 OBIE Award-winning puzzle-play, In on It, which will complete its all-too-short three-week Triangle run on May 31-June 3 and June 6-9 at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, is an episodic but eye-opening and altogether extraordinary piece of theater in which less is definitely more. Its convoluted plot unfolds on a bare stage, and is performed in the round, with director Dana Marks skillfully maneuvering her intuitive and expressive cast of two around the stage, so that they can milk each episode for maximum dramatic effect.

Dramatist Daniel MacIvor has a well-developed and highly theatrical sense of irony. For example, he inserts snippets from Maria Callas’ rousing rendition of the title character’s aria about happier times — sung on her lonely way to execution — from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in scenes in which a long-time lover’s premature death poleaxes his surviving partner.

At Manbites Dog, 2011 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate Matthew Hager as This One and Triangle theater veteran Gregor McElvogue as That One each make several complicated characters fully three-dimensional — and royally entertain Manbites Dog patrons in the process. Messrs. McElvogue and Hager slip into and out of roles as smoothly and easily as they slip into and out of the gray lamb’s wool sport coat that serves as the play’s only prop.

Who plays whom is not as important. The actors bring impressive passion to their performances, and thoroughly explore the emotional landscape of each character.

Matthew Hager plays a gay man devastated by his long-time partner’s death in an automobile accident, and Gregor McElvogue adds a gritty portrait of an old man visiting his doctor with an icicle in his heart, because he expects to hear only the worst — that his condition is terminal. Later on, McElvogue and Hager also play a gay couple who break up — musical-theater style, with Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” providing an ironic soundtrack to their split — and a straight couple whose relationship is also being smashed to pieces on the Scylla and Charybdis of husbandly neglect and wifely infidelity.

To further describe the dramatic journeys of This One and That One as they explore dark corners of the human heart would be to deprive potential Manbites Dog patrons of some of the jaw-dropping plot twists and turns that make In on It such an enjoyable adventure in experimental theater. Suffice it to say that when you pair a wily veteran actor (Gregor McElvogue) with a promising newcomer (Matthew Hager) and engage an imaginative and resourceful director (Dana Marks) to put them through their paces, you can make theatrical magic. In on It is a provocative Manbites Dog Theater piece that will long be remembered.

SECOND OPINION: May 30th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (which awarded the show 4 out of 5 stars):; and May 25th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s May 24th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Manbites Dog Theater presents IN ON IT at 8:15 p.m. June 1 and 2, 3:15 p.m. June 3, and 8:15 p.m. June 6-9 at  703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $17 Friday-Saturday, except $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel and $5 Student Rush Tickets with ID.

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or






The Play: On It (Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia).

The Playwright: (official bio), MacIvor (Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia), (Playwrights Guild of Canada), and (Wikipedia).

The Director: (Artists Resource Agency).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).