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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 18:55

Toronto Theatre Review: A BEAUTIFUL VIEW Misses the Mark

Written by
Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherf ord Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherf ord Photo: Hilda Lobinger

A Beautiful View, written by one of Canada's most literate and successfully produced playwrights, Daniel MacIvor, is a two-hander that maps the major moments in a relationship between two women with opposing personalities, (opposites attract) who meet, fall in and out, and in and out, of love and subsequently experience life together and apart in a variety of ways and through many phases, for over a decade. In simplest terms, the two women, whose names we never learn, arrive on stage and tell the story of their relationship, sometimes through flashback, re-enacting moments, other times simply commenting, often speaking directly to the audience.

MacIvor's script as well as Manson's production are mildly insightful, touching and humorous as the two women struggle to figure out who they are as individuals and as a couple. Case in point, each comically labels the other as lesbian, while refusing to accept it as a description of their own sexuality.

There are several themes running through this play. Unfortunately, none of them is clearly or sufficiently exploited. The characters' search for a way to define their relationship touches on the theme of 'being practical as opposed to feeling', a perfect topic for conflict and theatrical exploration that unfortunately goes nowhere.

Additionally, since partners in most relationships search for ways to connect, the theme "nothing is enough" is yet another interesting issue raised by the playwright. Nothing is enough could be interpreted several ways, but in this play it ends up meaning, nothing is not enough. Interesting, but like so much other material in this script, it is only dealt with peripherally.

Fear, taking its toll in life and relationships, is yet another theme addressed, but never fully realized.

So, is it in the writing or the directing that this play meanders and loses focus? Several Toronto critics who saw the 2009 production of this script, have taken Ross Manson, this version's director, to task for simply not doing justice to either the script or the playwright's intentions.

In fact, the problems with this production ought to be shared by both its director and playwright.
The script, while offering up some excellent moments, is inconsistent and seldom creates the amount of necessary dramatic conflict. And this lack is exacerbated by Ranson's direction which frequently fails to find those crucial moments of emotion, conflict and theatricality. Too often, inorganic, contrived, dance-like movement replaces any emotional reactions.

There is some beautiful writing, some clever aphorisms, but the dialogue is basically trite, lacking intellectual rigor, sufficient dramatic tension and/or emotional insight. Ultimately, this script adds up to a laundry list of moments in a couple's life, some interesting, but not necessarily engaging or theatrical.

The sophomoric characters grow older, but never really any wiser. They never mature. Yes, physically there were some noticeable changes over time. For example, the skittish character's behavior became calmer, more grounded. But otherwise, where it really counts, emotionally, intellectually, we do not witness any significant growth. And while people can remain perpetual kids, neither this script nor this production is really trying to say that.

As a direct result, neither the characters nor their circumstances ever totally engaged or involved me.
The acting duo consists of improv performer Becky Johnson and veteran actor, Amy Rutherford.
Becky is the border-line nerdy, twitchy, weird girl. Unfortunately, her initial performance is forced, since she pushes too hard to be that uncomfortable character.

Amy, on the other hand, as the quieter, more sedate and grounded of the two, really did inhabit her character. But, alas, ultimately, neither character develops significantly, basically remaining immature and not very likeable.

The play unfolds on the 'flavor of the year', Alley theatre stage, with audience seated on two sides of the stage. Props are carried on as needed in order to designate different locations.

The minimalist design by Manson and Felix Leicher (set), Rebecca Picherack (Lights) and Michael Laird (sound) are perfect for this script, allowing for fluid scene changes.

This 65 minute uneven production unfolds more like an acting class exercise performed by two capable actors, which, at best, makes it occasionally interesting and entertaining, but seldom engaging or a superb piece of theatre.

This play was originally staged in Toronto in 2009 and this production originally marked the European premiere of A Beautiful View, presented by BeMe Theatre in Munich in 2012.

Toronto's Volcano, in association with Munich's BeMe Theatre, presents
A Beautiful View

Written by: Daniel MacIvor
Composed by: Krister Schuchardt
Directed by: Ross Manson
Starring: Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford
Scenic Design: Ross Manson & Felix Leicher
Lighting Design: Rebecca Picherack

Tuesday-Saturdays at 8PM, Matinees Saturday at 2pm and Sundays at 4pm.
Tickets: $25 ($20

Factory Box Office at 1416-504-9971

Additional Info

  • Review Theatre Name: Factory Studio Theatre
  • Review Theatre Address: Factory Studio Theatre 125 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON Canada
  • Review Theatre Opens Date: Thursday, 27 February 2014
  • Review Theatre Closes Date: Sunday, 09 March 2014
Last modified on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 19:10