His Greatness MacIvor

His Greatness pairs poetry and self-destruction on stage

It would be disingenuous for me to call His Greatness a fiasco. Or turgid. Those words are reserved for the output of some other playwright.

His Greatness, written and performed by Dan MacIvor and directed by Ed Roy, is "a potentially true story about a the playwright Tennessee Williams." And it's nothing like the fictional play-within-a-play's scathing reviews.

It's a play, which opened last night at the Factory Studio Theatre and is full of zingers delivered by Richard Donat, who plays Williams as he loses his grip on reality through excessive drinking and debauchery. Or is it madness?

"Madness is not in the brain," as Donat's character reveals. "It's in the blood."

With so much alcohol in his blood, though, I began to wonder if it's a madness of his own making. It's almost like watching a train wreck, observing the Williams character as he drags his faithful assistant — played by MacIvor donning a moustache — down with him on his path.

Williams' muse (the Young Man character) played by Greg Gale, is a struggling 28-year-old from Newfoundland who turns tricks in Vancouver to get by. He also falls for the playwright, having his own delusions of grandeur with hopes of making it big in L.A.

But this is set in 1980, when the Vancouver Playhouse produced Williams' play The Red Devil Battery Sign — in which Donat himself acted. His Greatness is as much an examination of what happened during Williams' time in Vancouver as it is an allegory for the pitfalls of personal destruction.

It's delightful to come along for the ride. Even if, as the "Playwright" character says, "It's not real, my dear. It's poetry." Indeed, "Happy endings are an evil fiction."

His Greatness continues at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.) until Oct. 23 from Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets ($40 - $60, Sunday matinee PWYC) via 416-504-9971 or the Factory Theatre website.

Photo by Seán Baker.

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