'Monster' by Daniel MacIvor
Part of a double bill by Daniel MacIvor now onstage at Toronto's Factory Theatre
Provided by B-Rebel Communications. Pictured: Karl Ang
"A puzzlement of a script but oh so frightfully fascinating to watch unfold. Karl Ang and Soheil Parsa are extraordinary artists who dig deep into the human psyche and uncover some dark intentions."
‘Monster’ and ‘Here Lies Henry,’ written by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, are on a double bill this month at Toronto’s Factory Theatre.
I saw the opening night performance of ‘Monster.’ Another Our Theatre Voice writer will comment on ‘Here Lies Henry.’
‘Monster’ was, well, a puzzlement.
Don’t get me wrong. The production contains a memorable performance of emotional control and nuances by Karl Ang and is directed with careful precision and understanding of each individual line by Soheil Parsa.
But a lot is happening here…at times, ‘Monster’ is frightening. Other times, it’s alarming…
But where is Karl Ang taking me? That’s what I want to find out.
The Factory website bills the solo show as peeling back the 16 layers of 16 different characters to reveal the dark heart of the individual experience. ‘Monster’ invites its audiences to confront our fears and embrace the complexities that make us human.
Trevor Schwellnus’ bare stage goes completely dark at the top of the show where we then hear someone yelling ‘Shut Up’. To whom is this directed? It just comes out of nowhere.
Karl Ang then appears. The programme lists Allie Marshall as Wardrobe Stylist. Ang is dressed comfortably. He appears to be the kind of guy we want to sit down and talk with. Was this he who shouted at someone to shut up? At first, I thought someone was talking in the audience and was all this staged as part of MacIvor’s script? Schwellnus’ eerie lighting design doesn’t leave me feeling comfortable. For some reason, I just sense that something is not right here.
But I want to keep going.
Ang then proceeds to regale with stories and various characters that somehow are all related. For most of the running time, he is rooted centre stage with a spotlight on him. Aided by Thomas Ryder Payne’s meticulously executed (and sometimes frightening sound design at the right moment), Ang is an incredible performer who can switch from one character to the next, whether male or female, in seconds. For example, there’s the story of a young boy who hacked up his father in the basement. We then meet lovers Al and Janine, who argue, make up and then decide to marry, although there is this strong sense the marriage will not last.
What’s the connection?
MacIvor was recently interviewed by Aisling Murphy for Intermission. The following made me re-think again more about ‘Monster’:
“The world has become both tender, and more brutal. The notion of evil is a very different conversation today…More and more…my responsibility is to step further into telling truth, so I can bring the truth of myself, or whatever the hell that is…”
What truth is told in ‘Monster’?
And then it finally dawned on me about halfway through the 75-minute running time.
Does it really matter if truth is told in the end? Another frightening element to consider.
The final few moments of the piece are spellbinding and haunting. Karl Ang is a changed man at the conclusion. I will never look upon Burt Bacharach’s ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ in the same way again.
‘Monster’ is one of those solo shows that once again demands a talk back. Hopefully there will be some scheduled in its run to December 17.
Side note: there’s talk that it might be a good idea to see both ‘Monster’ and ‘Here Lies Henry’ on the same day. I didn’t have that opportunity this time. However, it might be something to consider.
Running time: approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.
The production runs until December 17 in the Studio Theatre at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto. For tickets, visit factorytheatre.com or call the Box Office (416) 504-9971.
FACTORY THEATRE presents
‘Monster’ by Daniel McIvor
Directed by Soheil Parsa
Production Dramaturge: Ric Knowles
Set, Props and Lighting Design: Trevor Schwellnus
Sound Design: Thomas Ryder Payne
Wardrobe Stylist: Allie Marshall
Stage Manager: Meghan Speakman
Performer: Karl Ang