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): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/daniel-macivors-meta-theatrical-puzzle-in-on-it-at-manbites-dog/Content?oid=3076279; and May 25th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5565. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s May 24th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/05/daniel-macivors-2002-obie-winner-in-on-it-is-a-wonderfully-theatrical-two-man-show/.)
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 http://manbitesdogtheater.tix.com/Schedule.asp?OrganizationNumber=150.
The Play: http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=In On It (Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia).
The Playwright: http://danielmacivor.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/07/Daniel_MacIvor_Bio_October_2011.pdf (official bio), http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Daniel MacIvor (Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia), http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/playwright/daniel-macivor (Playwrights Guild of Canada), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_MacIvor (Wikipedia).
The Director: http://www.artistsresourceagency.com/html/female_talent___dana_marks.html (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 http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.