In On It

The Dirigo Group production of Daniel MacIvor's 'In On It,' with two actors in multiple roles, succeeds beyond an exercise in acting and becomes a heartbreaking wound that feels good to receive

Arts Review

In On It

The Off Center, through July 29

Running Time: 1 hr, 15 min

The elements here are simple: two actors, two chairs, and a single gray suede jacket on an otherwise empty stage. The story itself is no more complex, really, than any expert interweaving of a half-dozen disparate lives, although the playwright – the often brilliant Daniel MacIvor – has doubled a layer by incorporating comments on the process of staging the show while its happening.

What's happening is a re-creation of the relationship between This One and That One: two men who've fallen in love, or something akin to love, together. What's also happening is a depiction of the way their lives intersect, thematically and literally, with the lives of the play's other characters – all of whom, male or female, are played by the two actors (and, metafictively, by This One and That One).

The actors are Robert Faires (better known in these pages as the Chronicle's arts editor) and Scotty Roberts. They're working under the direction of Lowell Bartholomee, who helms this production for the Dirigo Group, and they're working so well in this show that, sometimes, it doesn't seem that they're working at all. To see each of them take on the same role, consecutively – a teenager, the teenager's stepfather, the stepfather's mistress, the mistress' possibly terminally ill husband, the husband's senile father, and others – is to experience the satisfaction of seeing two professionals plying their trade to fine effect. Unfortunately, especially when they're being This One and That One, this also succeeds beyond an exercise in acting.

Unfortunately, I say, because the show is a heartbreaker. Oh, sure, it's often clever and funny and has a few moments of lighthearted movement, as when our romantic duo performs a hammy dance routine to Lesley Gore's "Sunshine Lollipops." But MacIvor, never one to shy away from the dark reaches of humanity and what removes it, has chosen to remind us just why that imposing figure with the scythe is called grim. And if Faires and Roberts transcend, at times, mere good work and seem to become the two men that the play is about – and they do – and if the couple's relationship is written as realistically as your own life or the lives of your friends – and it is – well, that only serves to rend us into smaller pieces when the inevitable, which has been fucking rhythmically foreshadowed, comes to pass.

Also: There's a thing that reviewers say about how "the color scheme (or the landscape or whatever) was like a character on its own." In In On It, that's what the sound design, also provided by Bartholomee, is like. Not the samples of Lesley Gore or Maria Callas, necessarily, but the amplified sounds of ambient life: These trickle in like grains of salt to enhance the way the story wounds you.

If more wounds felt this good to receive, I think our theatregoing hearts would be little but scar tissue.

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In On It, Daniel MacIvor, Robert Faires, Scotty Roberts, Lowell Bartholomee, Dirigo Group

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