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  • Drama
  • Nancy Copeland

This year's review package is notable for the many established playwrights it includes: Daniel MacIvor, Judith Thompson, Jason Sherman, Brad Fraser, Michael Healey, and Vern Thiessen are among those represented by new works, while the second volume of Sharon Pollock's Collected Works edited by Cynthia Zimmerman also appeared in 2006. Four of the five finalists for the Governor General's Award for Drama in English were received for review, including Lisa Codrington's Cast Iron, which was reviewed in Letters in Canada 2005 when it appeared in Canadian Theatre Review. Daniel MacIvor was the 2006 award winner for I Still Love You, a collection of five plays [End Page 78] commemorating the end of da da kamera, the company MacIvor formed to produce his plays. The anthologized plays span fifteen years in the company's history. Four of the five have been published previously: Never Swim Alone (1991), The Soldier Dreams (1997), You Are Here (2000), and In on It (2001). A Beautiful View (2006), the final play developed by the company, is published here for the first time. All the plays, MacIvor observes in his introduction, 'are about how we must welcome death and embrace endings in order to move forward, even to begin,' a theme that links them to the company's passing. A Beautiful View also shares with the other plays a plot centred on relationships and MacIvor's trademark spare, meta-theatrical style. Two women, L and M, named Liz and Mitch by Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis, who played them in the first production, stage their friendship for the audience, from their first, chance meeting in an outdoor equipment store to their deaths years later while on a camping trip. In between they lose track of each other, separate more than once, and get back together, finally dying together in a bear attack at their campground, brought together again by chance, fear, and the deep affinity they have trouble acknowledging. They are kept apart by ambivalence about everything from honesty to commitment to their attraction to one another, and by Mitch's fear of what others will think: 'I'm not a lesbian,' she announces. 'I do not have the constitution' to be bisexual. '[S]top naming things,' Liz urges: "'I am a," "We are a," "She is a." . . . Those are just names so other people can feel comfortable.' 'Feelings are like bears,' she has observed earlier; '[t]hey follow their own rules' – a deceptively simple statement that encompasses not only the play's major symbol but her casual betrayal of Mitch. By the end of the play, it becomes clear that Liz and Mitch are addressing us from beyond death, in the pristine landscape imagined by Liz, where 'we turn and see someone, and we look into their eyes and we see . . . [o]ur best self.' The ambiguous, recurring statement, 'Nothing is enough,' which might mean 'Nothing will ever do,' is resolved in favour of Mitch's interpretation: 'Nothing is sufficient.' The same can be said of the work's style: (almost) nothing is (more than) sufficient. The elegantly minimalist staging familiar from MacIvor's previous work, relying on a few props, sound, and lighting effects, is combined here with a low-key plot about a long relationship between ordinary, flawed characters that emerges as both a gently comic and ultimately moving love story and a sophisticated reflexive play about how we construct provisional realities through essential fictions.

Drew Hayden Taylor's In a World Created by a Drunken God was another finalist. Its encounter between adult half-brothers combines the realistic with the symbolic: Jason is a 'Canadian half-Native man,' the product of a temporary liaison between his Native mother and a white American tourist on a hunting vacation; Harry is that tourist's [End Page 79] legitimate, American son. Though they are biologically related, they have grown up in very different circumstances, unaware of each other's existence. They are brought together by the terminal illness of their father: Harry has sought out Jason in the desperate hope that he will be able and willing to donate the kidney their father needs to survive. This contrived...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 78-97
Launched on MUSE
2008-06-04
Open Access
No
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