Nasty Shadows Theatre company have just begun their three-city New Brunswick tour of Daniel MacIvor’s play, ‘In On It’. A minimalistic two-man postmodern piece, ‘In On It’ is essentially a play about itself, rife with clever, poignant dialogue and self-awareness.
As a play, ‘In On It’ is so steeped in postmodernism that even describing its synopsis is a challenge. Two characters, sensible straight-man This One (Scott Shannon) and his loose, upbeat colleague That One (Michael Holmes-Lauder) lead the audience trough a bizarre yet touching journey. Opening with what seems to be a serious, high-emotion piece about a car accident and a man’s diagnosis with a fatal illness, ‘In On It’ quickly shifts gears as the characters drop character and begin bickering over the semantics of the dialogue, the story, and each others’ performances, while later scenes evoke a third narrative ark about a couple’s blooming then strained relationship which raises questions about the play as a whole and never gives any concrete answers.
Between the fourth wall breaks, the meta-performances, and the potentially intertwining scenes and plots, it’s not always easy to tell where the line between the audience, the actors, and their characters is drawn. It’s not quite a play within a play, but rather a play about another play that’s happening mostly concurrently and may or may not be directly intertwined as well. As we said, it’s a bit of a challenge to explain.
Both actors do an excellent job in all of their numerous parts, staying engaging and energetic as they juggle a half dozen roles each. The play’s strange meta-structure presents a unique challenge though, as it requires the actors to portray different actors who are themselves taking their own approaches to a variety of roles. With numerous monologues, intensive character acting sections, and multiple dance numbers set to Lesley Gore’s ‘Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows,’ both Shannon and Holmes-Lauder showcase the full gamut of acting talent.
As should be expected of such a production, the staging is about as minimalist as can be, but to great effect. The only props on hand are two chairs and a grey blazer that is traded back and forth between This One and That One as they swap roles, leading to an almost hypnotic fixation with it as a costume piece when used in conjunction with the striking lighting direction.
Thoroughly enjoyable, ‘In On It’ hooks the audience with its charm, comedic banter, and emotional resonance. The play is riddled with various memorable moments, including the clever dialogue, the false endings, and a selfie with the entire audience. While keeping up with the various levels of meta-theatre may admittedly be a little much for those who prefer things to stay simple and straightforward, ‘In On It’ is perfect for anyone interested in a more complex, thought-provoking experience.
Fredericton: JAN 12-14 (THURS-SAT) 7:30 PM, at Memorial Hall, UNB Campus
Saint John: JAN 20-21 (FRI-SAT) 7:30 PM, at Saint John High School Mini-Theatre
Moncton: FEB 4 (SAT) 7:30 PM at Théâtre l’Escaouette Studio
For more information about Nasty Shadows, you can check out nastyshadows.com