Review: Let’s Run Away (Canadian Stage)

Picture of Daniel MacIvor in Let's Run AwayCanadian Stage presents a solo show exploring a son’s tenuous relationship with his mother

Daniel MacIvor (writer and performer) and Daniel Brooks (director and dramaturge) bring us the world premiere of their seventh solo show, Let’s Run Away, playing at Canadian Stage. Peter (Daniel MacIvor) tells the story of his complicated and infrequent relationship with his birth mother by reading her unpublished memoir while interjecting with objections, angry outbursts, and a punk song.

Let’s Run Away is a narrative from two perspectives. Peter’s mother’s memoir shapes her as a punk who owned Sid Vicious’ bass guitar and tells stories about parties at Fran Lebowitz’s place in the Meatpacking District. Peter’s narrative reveals an angry and sorrowful queer man who longs for an audience and an emotional connection.

I think it’s important to note that Peter’s queerness is naturally woven into the play, without issue or revelation. It is not the cause of anger or loneliness; it is simply part of his character.

We are given bits and pieces of Peter’s life, his story only slowly unraveling into a comprehensible whole. His living situation is often unstable. Peter has lived in a motel with a circus carnie, a basement under his social worker’s house, and in foster homes.

Brooks and MacIvor do an excellent job of flushing out a well-rounded and empathetic protagonist, struggling to grapple with his own emotions. Peter’s angry outbursts, and frustration with the lighting and sound help build a very unique characterization.

Sometimes Peter angrily interrupts his mother’s words to object. It didn’t happen that way, that’s not true, what does that even mean. His outbursts bring laugh-out-loud comedy to the production, but also illuminate the sadness and frustration of the character’s life.

Peter is a simultaneously comic and tragic figure. My guest loved the humanity and vulnerability of the character. Peter’s incredible wanting for a relationship with his mother combines with his anger at her abandonment to create explosive emotions onstage.

Peter’s life reveals itself in fragments, and it seems that this reflects the way he perceives his life: as scattered memories. Fragments of texts and intertextual references also saturate the play. Difficult and ridiculous books written by various authors like Northrop Fry and Joseph Campbell make appearances.

Words are important in this production: Peter reads his mother’s words, he composes a song, he repeatedly returns to a recording of To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Peter holds his mother’s memoir up and tells us this is: “proof that the words exist, because words are important, what they mean.”

I particularly enjoyed the richness of MacIvor’s words, and the usage of other people’s words to create layers of depth and meaning. Peter’s mother’s memoir, his own notebook and interjections, and the intertextual references build on each other to create cohesive meaning in scattered messages.

“How about less shit and more champagne?!” rails Peter angrily. A sentiment I think we can all agree with. The delivery of Let’s Run Away is complex, but the plot is simple. Human emotions and wanting are at the core of this top-notch production.

Details

    • Let’s Run Away is playing until November 17, 2019 at Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
    • Shows run Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday to Sunday at 8pm, Friday at 7 pm, with an additional matinee on Saturdays at 2 pm
    • Ticket prices range from $49 – $79
    • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-368-3110, or in person at the box office
    • Post-show talkback on November 7 and November 14, pre-show chat on November 15 at 6:15 pm.

Photo of Daniel MacIvor provided by the company

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