When theatre “It Boy” Daniel MacIvor wrote Marion Bridge, a play which is finally getting its Toronto premiere after being performed out East, in New York City and being adapted into a film, he figured it would never be performed in the city. A big contrast to his edgy one-man shows, Marion Bridge is a family drama about three sisters reconnecting at their mother’s deathbed that MacIvor supposedly wrote because he wanted to do something his mom would be able to enjoy. The play was supposed to be a rural drama meant for a rural audience, but The Company Theatre, lead by Artistic Director Allan Hawco, decided that if it was good enough for NYC, it was good enough for Toronto and got MacIvor to direct their production of his play.
Agnes, a struggling actor and alcoholic, returns from Toronto to her family home in Nova Scotia where she is reunited with her sister Theresa, a nun, and Louise, a recently-religious, butch potential crypto-lesbian who is obsessed with soap operas and talk shows. The three women try to deal with the business of their dying mother, while also taking on visiting their deadbeat dad, tracking down Agnes’ daughter that she gave up for adoption many years before and maybe even getting Louise a girlfriend (assuming she’s even actually queer). The cast is uniformly strong, particularly Sarah Dodd who plays the stern yet loving Theresa.
This is only the second play for The Company Theatre, whose inaugural production was last fall’s Whistling in the Dark. “Whistling in the Dark was very masculine, very testosterone-filled,” says Hawco, “whereas Marion Bridge is all women. We knew they would make a good pairing.” Hawco and MacIvor have been friends for a long time; in fact, Hawco claims that MacIvor was the first actor he ever saw on stage. At the age of 3, he attended a touring production of Hansel and Gretel in which a very young MacIvor played Hansel. So, why is MacIvor’s work is so popular, especially right now as he has just finished his Da Da Kamera remounts at Buddies and has a new work premiering in Tarragon’s next season? “I find that his work opens my mind to a new way of thinking about something,” says Hawco. “His understanding of the human condition is informative; it gives you information about how you live your life.”
As a play, Marion Bridge certainly lacks the bite of MacIvor’s solo work. The characters are deftly realised and the dialogue charming and realistic, but the plot never allows things to get too scary, or for the stakes to get too high. This is a show that plays it safe, but has a lot of heart. There are some truly hilarious moments, but don’t go expecting the kinds of narrative sucker-punches delivered in Here Lies Henry or Monster. It may not be cutting-edge, but this is still a solid production and a solid play. And yes, your mom would probably love it.