Monster opens in the profound silence of a cinema, broken by an audience member and marking the initiation of a dark and intricate narrative that unfolds as a suspenseful theatrical journey. As the storyline progresses, MacIvor moves through themes of tragedy, love, resentment, and the impact of cinema as the root cause of human evils.
Karl Ang‘s one-person performance stands out, delivering compelling portrayals while sharply transitioning between sixteen characters, all connected by the eerie theme of a son’s dismemberment of his father.
As the horrific tale unfolds through various perspectives including; a young boy recounting a neighbour’s gruesome murder, an alcoholic shotgun-married couple, a man in recovery, and a filmmaker behind an unfinished movie epic. Daniel MacIvor’s writing, intentionally unsettling, quickly serves up a suspenseful and cerebral experience as a hybrid of psychological thriller and a humorously cynical work about revenge.
Special commendation to the light and sound technician, whose impeccable work, in collaboration with Karl Ang, executed every cue with precision timing, creating an urgent and paced cadence that heightened the overall impact of Karl Ang’s performance.
Monster mirrors Here Lies Henry with its slightly modernized approach incorporating references to Barbie, Netflix, and the use of gender-neutral washrooms, and contemporary pronouns. Here Lies Henry updated its references to COVID, TikTok, social media influencers, and Law and Order, adding a layer of relevance for new and younger audiences.
Both one-person shows showcase MacIvor’s writing mastery, transcending traditional boundaries and leading the audience through a continually shifting narrative in both plays. A hallmark of MacIvor’s writing lies in his ability to present an idea that initially appears one way but ultimately morphs into multiple perspectives of a singular event. While Monster tells its story through a range of characters, Here Lies Henry presents a personal story told through a series of personalties, each extending from a single persona, emphasizing that to be human one has to exist in multiplicities.
Here Lies Henry was impressively played by Damien Atkins, who brings depth and authenticity to his compulsively lying, and neurotic character. Atkins’ portrayal brings forward another layer of appreciation for the play’s emotional nuances and MacIvor’s storytelling prowess.
Both one-person plays showcase MacIvor’s ability to transcend traditional boundaries and lead the audience through a continually shifting narrative. MacIvor’s hallmark lies in his intention to present an idea that initially appears one way but ultimately morphs through multiple perspectives and interpretations. Monster (70 minutes) and Here Lies Henry (80 minutes) are captivating gems that not only offer profound personal insights, but may also prompt introspection into one’s own motives, revealing how personal filters influence the perception of the narrative.
Monster is directed by Soheil Parsa and at Factory Theatre Studio until December, 10 2023.
Here Lies Henry is directed by Tawiah M’Carthy and at Factory Theatre Mainspace until December 17 2023.
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Review by Raymond Helkio for The Reading Salon.