Friday, 13 March 2015

A Little Cake and Lots of Dirt

I am ashamed to admit it but I have never seen one of Daniel MacIvor's plays before now. It doesn't make sense to myself even. I am a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and run my own blog (yes, this one) where I review theatre of interest to the LGBTQ community. I am the Artistic Director of both Gay Play Day, an annual festival of LGBTQ theatre in Toronto and the HamilTEN festival, an annual festival of 10 minute plays in Hamilton. I grew up in the GTA and studied theatre at a high school of the Arts in Toronto. I attended lots of theatre in the city as a kid and even more so in my teens and early twenties. So how could I not have seen one of MacIvor's plays? Like I said, it just doesn't make sense.

Now, while I will confess to being somewhat of a musical theatre fanatic while growing up, attending lots of American touring shows that came through Toronto, I was also very aware of both Sky Gilbert's and Brad Fraser's works, having seen several premiere productions of their plays dating back to my teens. But Daniel MacIvor, their contemporary, just wasn't on my radar. Now, of course I have heard of him, especially over the last five years or so. But lately I've been either too busy working on my own shows or seeing other people's shows that when an opportunity to see a MacIvor work did come up, I never got the chance to actually go.

So, admittedly, I am a little late to MacIvor's party but luckily there is still some cake and lots of dirt. 

David Storch, Laara Sadiq, Maggie Huculak, Patrick Kwok-Choon, Maria Vacratsis and Bethany Jillard in Daniel MacIvor's Cake and Dirt. (Photo by Jeremie Warshafsky.)

Tarragon Theatre's production of Cake and Dirt is MacIvor's response to today's Toronto. They say this is the beginning of MacIvor's angry phase and I think I like him when he's mad. Some have said that the characters in Cake and Dirt are too bitter. But let's face it, Toronto can make people feel that way. The traffic jams, the never ending construction of shoebox-sized condos, the disappearing green space, those annoying fucking streetcars. It's all so frustrating. I hear you, Mr. MacIvor. Loud and clear.

The characters in Cake and Dirt are all so real. I know each of them personally. I've partied with them over the years. The aging lawyers, the self-centred politicians, the desperate working housewives and the spoiled rich kids who want to be so much more than just that. And in between the witty banter and harmless gossip, they do have terrifying moments of selfishness and narcissism. The birthday party scene in Cake and Dirt is one of the most realistic portrayals of today's society that I have witnessed on stage and it's quite funny to watch. I have been to that party. Everybody together in the same room yet in reality quite detached from one another, their only true common interest being themselves and maybe the alcohol.

Congratulations to a fine ensemble cast, to Amiel Gladstone for the fast-paced direction and to MacIvor on his script. Art is imitating life in this play and some people are afraid to look in the mirror.

Cake and Dirt runs until April 12th. Tickets are available at  

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