Nasty Shadows theatre company steps back into the light, showcasing Nova Scotia playwright Daniel MacIvor’s In On It in a thought-provoking, challenging and intimate production.
In On It has two plot lines that are revealed to the audience slowly, in a style which departs from a traditional linear structure and is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Memento. The first plot revolves around a middle-aged man who is sick with cancer while going through a divorce. This first plot is actually a fiction being rehearsed by two men in a relationship. Their names are not revealed, rather they are referred to as This One (Scott Shannon) and That One (Michael Holmes-Lauder).
Throughout the rehearsal of the play within a play, written by This One, That One is constantly interrupting the narrative to critique the honesty of the play. In On It is a play that examines theatre’s role in coping with the grief of losing a loved one, and it is an analysis of what makes art true.
The play is not grand in presentation, with minimal set, costumes and lighting, but where it’s small in aesthetic it is great in ideas. Daniel MacIvor’s plays are naturalist and meta, often revolving around thespians and the theatre itself – In On It is no exception. Representation and the creation of narrative are central themes examined within the story.
Scott Shannon and Michael Holmes-Lauder deliver soul-crushing work. Both actors are winning the acting Olympics in this show, frequently cutting in and out of multiple characters. Shannon drags you through hell with one painful truth after another, and Holmes-Lauder is the devil waiting to toy with you when you get there.
Despite the sad tone of the play, In On It is also hilarious and even uplifting, or it at least allows you to dance away your sorrows with charming choreography by Diane Cole.
Under the direction of Matthew Spinney this production captures a consistent and clear tone that is somehow paradoxically sad and funny, nihilist and hopeful, simple and complicated.
The play is engaging from the first lines: “There are the things that happen out of careful planning. And then there are the things that happen over which we have no control.”
It is clear that a lot of careful planning went into this production, and unfortunately, we as an audience have no control over when these shadows will come out from the darkness again.
In On It ran in Fredericton from Jan. 12-14 in UNB Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m., runs in Saint John from Jan. 20-21 in Mini-Theatre, Saint John High School at 7:30 p.m., and in Moncton on Feb. 4 at Théâtre L’Escaouette Studio at 7:30 p.m.
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