This is one of those unfortunate cases where it would’ve been nice to have a whole weekend to write a review of da da kamera’s play A Beautiful View. Daniel MacIvor’s layered piece, with one of the most bizarre and unexpected — to say the least — endings ever witnessed by this reviewer, leaves one wishing she had more time to process it all.
Ultimately, however, A Beautiful View is exactly what its name states — a gorgeous exploration into the lives of two women who float through life, bumping into each other like flotsam and jetsam in a vast ocean, becoming intertwined almost against their will. They separate for a while then come together again, after, as Tracy Wright’s character says, “time passes; things happen,” men come and go, mothers die, and the everyday human life unfolds.
These are two “normal” straight women, and the development of their friendship is what frightens Caroline Gillis’ character (“I didn’t have the constitution to be a bisexual”). The push and pull of their relationship is based on the simple fact that, as Wright later says, naming something kills its purity. Friends, lovers, couple, gay, straight, accountant — whatever label is placed on a person or a situation can often end up defining parameters too much.
MacIvor’s writing is exquisite. Threads, throughlines, and motifs weave and bob just like the women’s on and off relationship. The outdoors plays a large part in the play — the dark unknown that plays hot to this pair, lost in the woods trying to find their way in the dark. “Nothing is enough” gets repeated throughout the play, and we can interpret that however we like, even though the characters have their own ideas about it. MacIvor is sharply funny, too, slicing through, among other things, convention, homosexuality, beauty, art, and love.
Wright’s dry, sly voice and self-deprecating behavior is so charming, as are Gillis’ slightly more nervous mannerisms. Gillis and Wright are luminous in their skill, and their characters are wholly likeable and relatable. They admit they’re liars (indulging in “wishful thinking”), and they live their lives the best they can in all their uncertainty — just like the rest of us.
In da da kamera fashion, the design elements are so amazing and almost like extra characters. Sound design by Michael Laird is excellent and cinematic. A small radio onstage plays songs and sound effects — it establishes the mood and the importance of the outdoors for the characters when, in the beginning, even as the audience enters, it plays the sound of crickets as it’s lit with a soft amber glow. The radio is the device through which some pivotal moments play. It’s their voice, the capturer of their history. Likewise, light design by Kimberly Purtell shades the characters perfectly through their moods, attitudes towards each other, and turning points.
The beginning is a little iffy, making the audience wonder what exactly they got themselves into. But once Wright opens her mouth, she’s won over the audience.
“The odd thing — it was fear that brought us back together finally,” Wright’s character says. The ending, though odd, feels like a good ending for these characters. MacIvor has taken personal fear and turned it into a concrete tragicomic climax. MacIvor appears to be saying that the unknown, whatever your unknown may be — the world of irrational fear, unnamed grey areas, death, religion, love, saying what you want, or drifting through life — can be beautiful, as long as you face it.
A Beautiful View • Spoleto Festival USA • June 7 at 8 p.m., June 9 at 5 p.m., June 10 at 5 p.m., June 11 at 3 p.m. • $30 • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Phillip St. • 579-3100