In `Cul-de-sac,' Daniel MacIvor brings 8 characters to believable life

TheaterReview

May 07, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Leonard, the protagonist in Cul-de-sac, believes everyone has a story. It just takes some people longer than others to figure out what their story happens to be.

For example, Leonard tells the audience at the Theatre Project that initially he thought his story was about his relationship with his lover - until his lover left him. Then Leonard thought his story might be about his friendship with the 13-year-old girl next door.

But Leonard's story turns out to be about something he couldn't have predicted. It's not about how he spent his life, but how his life ended.

Created by solo performer Daniel MacIvor and director Daniel Brooks, this latest production by the Canadian troupe da da kamera is a striking feat for MacIvor and an unsettling murder mystery for the audience.

The show is da da kamera's third visit to the Theatre Project in five years. In On It, which the company performed here in 2002, went on to win one of off-Broadway's Obie Awards. Cul-de-sac is scheduled to open in New York next season.

In this latest work, MacIvor portrays eight characters, seven of them - including gentle, soft-spoken Leonard -residents of the same suburban cul-de-sac. At one point, Leonard talks about "the desire to believe in the possibility of transformation," and seeing MacIvor transform himself into an entire neighborhood of quirky characters will make you a believer.

Without changing his costume of black trousers, black T-shirt and black cardigan, MacIvor plays everyone from the 13-year-old girl and her stuffy lawyer father to a pair of Gilbert & Sullivan-loving nudists and a crusty retired veterinarian. And, in an impressively understated manner, the versatile actor bestows a distinct personality on each (the precocious, chatterbox 13-year-old is a tour-de-force).

There are two measures of just how impressive MacIvor's metamorphoses are. The first comes in a scene set at a neighborhood Christmas party. Here, MacIvor switches nimbly among all seven neighbors, portraying the party's snooty hostess one minute and a spatting low-brow husband-and-wife the next.

An even more singular achievement, however, is that, with only a straight-backed chair and a rectangle of light to set the scene, MacIvor not only takes you into each neighbor's house, he paints such discrete portraits of the homeowners that you can almost picture what each house looks like.

Several times in the course of the 70-minute piece, Leonard describes a sound that wafted through the cul-de-sac in the final moments of his life. Moving one or both hands in wave-like motions, he demonstrates how the sound emanated from his house, then worked its way into each of the homes in the neighborhood. MacIvor's mild voice and undulating gestures turn what could be eerie interludes into something almost beautiful.

Although Leonard is a victim of violence, he is a man surprisingly at peace. Despite the horrific event at the end of the play, Leonard's demeanor makes Cul-de-sac seem more like a benediction than a sordid crime story.

At the same time, his neighbors' calm-to-blase accounts of his fate offer a disturbing commentary on the disconnectedness that can exist even in a small community. Whether Leonard's life affected any of his neighbors is difficult to say, but it definitely affects the audience at Cul-de-sac.

Cul-de-sac

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $20

Call: 410-752-8558

da da kamera is represented this weekend by two short films in the Maryland Film Festival. Touch and Until I Hear from You, both starring Daniel MacIvor, will be screened at the Charles Theatre 3 at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.

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