My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage


A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius

by Drew Rowsome
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann

The Best Brothers continues until Sun, Oct 27 at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave.

"Imagine a greeting card from Hallmark," says a character in The Best Brothers, "written by Neitzche and designed by Einstein." The Best Brothers has the life-affirming sweetness of a Hallmark greeting card but it too has been written by an intellectual and designed with scientific precision. That the smart farcical set pieces - and make no mistake, The Best Brothers had the audience laughing uncontrollably before leaving them with tears in their eyes - are in service of a paean to love and connection, is a departure for playwright Daniel MacIvor, but a very welcome one. In the past MacIvor has, while never skimping on the laughter and theatricality, taken audiences to some very dark places - with The Best Brothers he goes dark but carries an illuminating torch of hope and great compassion. 

The two actors, MacIvor and John Beale, make up the cast of three characters. We are used to MacIvor's chameleon-esque ability to create multiple interacting characters and Beale matches him every step of the way. The two brothers are deftly etched and instantly relatable characters but the mother, Bunny Best, is a delicious comic creation and her zest for life, even in death, is hilarious and full of wonder. Her phrase "And then I feel in love" is initially compared to "And then I lost the use of my lower limbs" but by the climax of the play the audience has been treated to a demonstration of the redemptive power of love. Bunny Best casually tells the audience that, "I always knew that life was fatal," and we laugh in recognition, tear up at the wisdom and share collectively in the sheer absurdity of life.

The simple but dazzingly intricate plot will not be discussed because much of the humour depends on the satisfaction of discovering how the puzzle pieces fit together. MacIvor hasn't gone soft - though the idea of a play where a dog's power to turn lives around may initially induce Marley & Me-style skepticism - and The Best Brothers is filled with pitch-black humour and a gay camp sensibility that mines our deepest fears for hearty belly laughs and biting satire. MacIvor's uproarious monologue to the caged dog manages to break the heart of every dog owner while also revealing much more than the character ever intended. And even dog haters will rejoice in The Best Brothers' message that while one may not fit into a specific category, that just does not matter. I could have done without the cutesy curtain call for MacIvor's dog who inspired The Best Brothers, but that is a small mis-step that did nothing to undo the power of what had come before.

MacIvor has always been a theatrical genius and now he can add comic genius to that moniker.

The Best Brothers continues until Sun, Oct 27 at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave.