A Beautiful View

A Beautiful View at Factory Theatre for a limited run

It's been less than a decade since Daniel MacIvor's A Beautiful View premiered with Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis to critical acclaim in Toronto. Volcano Theatre has remounted the show for an Ontario tour, proving that great stories will continue to be told and re-told.

Under the direction of Ross Manson, the play maintains its compelling narrative impact. We are reminded just how skilled MacIvor is as an expert storyteller. While the staging, and its accompanying lighting, sometimes runs astray, working against an improved treatment, there's still much to enjoy here in the unfolding of a complex friendship.

After first meeting in a sporting goods store, two women (Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford) stop and start into a unique bond marked by casual fun and ultimately love. Theirs is a deeply human relationship full of white lies, flaws, and misunderstandings that balance the laughs and musical forays. When a transgression within the friendship is revealed, the women attempt reconciliation in the shadow of their darkest fears.

The play considers the complexities of friendship and works to explore the trappings imposed by social labels. Certainly void of melodrama, a raw, stripped down quality in its place, MacIvor injects dialogue so relateable that the friendship almost feels familiar. No easy feat within the two-hander, relationship chronology convention. The occasion of the remount reminds us just how engaging the play can be and where it stands in the playwright's long list of memorable work.

Manson's staging is less successful, tending to overcomplicate some of the scenes with stylized movement and overwrought lighting. While the foreshadowing of the danger to come is haunting, the alleyway presentation, while usually a more focused stage space, feels, in this instance, less dynamic. The play would have benefited from more sexual and flirtatious energy between the two women to better drive the climax home.

Still, the powerful narrative arc is full of energy and complexity in the hands of Johnson and Rutherford. The two actors capture the trepidation of first friendship, the intimate, intertwined bond that develops with love, and the gray areas in between.

Of the two, Johnson finds the most variation in her portrayal of the awkward, musically-inclined pursuer. Her vulnerability is made palpable. Rutherford is slightly more reserved but, given that her character seems to hold the upper hand throughout, this quality ultimately works in her favour.

While it cannot be said that the remount improves upon the original, MacIvor's nuanced and compelling story still shines through.

A Beautiful View, written by Daniel MacIvor and directed by Ross Manson, runs at the Factory Theatre until March 9.

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