SEE BOB RUN and WILD ABANDON
by Daniel MacIvor
I’m a Little Pickled Theatre Company
1212 Commercial Dr.
January 31-February 11
These two one-person, one-act plays were my first introduction to Daniel MacIvor back around 1990, and they knocked me out when I first read and saw them. They left me with the sense of a strange, dark, disturbed, and disturbing playwright with a wonderful instinct for theatricality, qualities which have been confirmed over and over in the many MacIvors I’ve seen since.
Seeing the two back to back in the double-bill directed by Carol Hodge at the Havana makes it clear how much they have in common, but also how much better Wild Abandon is than See Bob Run. With few exceptions—the ensemble piece You Are Here, done so brilliantly a couple of years ago by the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Co-op, is one—MacIvor’s strongest plays are the solo or two-man shows he writes for himself to perform, works that feel, even if not exactly autobiographical, that they’re coming from a deep personal place. His more objectified characters—the three sisters in Marion Bridge, for instance—always seem contrived to me.
The young woman in See Bob Run and the young man in Wild Abandon have much in common. Both are severely disturbed, have major abuse/abandonment issues with their parents, and suffer from brutally low self-esteem. But even the title of See Bob Run suggests that we see Bob (Roberta) from the outside, whereas we’re inside Steve’s wild self-abandonment.
Bob’s running has a linear quality as she hitchhikes east, towards “the water,” fleeing her father’s sexual abuse, although she claims to be going to find him, and something else equally disturbing that will only be revealed at the end. She speaks to a series of invisible drivers who pick her up along the highway, and steps downstage to address the audience directly with details of her sad and sordid life. Her behaviour is textbook incest-victim, a little too psychologically pat and familiar, capped by the ending’s melodramatic revelation.
April Merrick’s low-key approach to Bob helps keep the melodrama in check but flattens the character emotionally, and with it the horror of her experience. There aren’t many textures, colours or contrasts in her performance, and it lacks the comedy that makes the awful in MacIvor’s world so awfully grotesque.
Wild Abandon, by contrast, is free-associational, and Stevie, while obviously sick, is also brilliantly, imaginatively wacko with a manic energy that drives the surreal stage images he constructs. The writing is stronger, too—“Love is fear in a nice neighbourhood”—and the use of projections and minimal but significant set pieces—an egg inside a birdcage; a noose—gives this play a more multi-dimensional theatricality.
Randie Parliament effectively captures Steve’s deadpan craziness that is MacIvor’s trademark. Clearly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, his mind racing a million miles an hour, Steve is a guy too smart and sensitive for his own good. His psychological and emotional circuits are overloaded, poisoned by violent images he can’t contain, as he wisecracks his way to the profound downer of an ending that ends his despair.
Though not technically complex, the production suffered on opening night from quite a few badly mis-timed sound and light cues that need to be absolutely dead on to frame MacIvor’s portraits of these deeply messed up kids.