New Magic Valley Fun Town Play
A must-see gripping black and white play
By Stephen Weir
If there was such a thing as magic, a troubled dad could wave his wand and Presto the sexual trauma of childhood and the sins of the adults who did it, will be gone in a cloud of smoke. Canadian playwright and actor Daniel MacIvor knows in his heart of hearts that pixie dust is just funny coloured dirt and that sometimes the only cure for a troubled past is death.
MacIvor newest play, New Magic Valley Fun Town just opened at the Tarragon Theatre in downtown Toronto is initially a million laughs. But, over the course of 90 minutes, the actors on stage, and the people sitting in the sold-out theatre, must confront the darkest memories of childhood sexual assault.
This is a play set completely inside a Nova Scotia mobile trailer. It is the home of Dougie, a bumbling Cape Bretoner who can’t walk and talk at the same time without spilling his Timmy’s, Cheesies and wine bought for his ex-wife and estranged daughter (Caroline Gillis and Stephanie MacDonald).
He is a balding, fifty-something homie. He is tormented by very bad childhood memories and even bigger health problems, ranging from depression and PTSD to terminal cancer. His wife and daughter, who moved out years ago, can’t calm him down as he waits for the arrival of an old pal.
Dougie hasn’t seen his best childhood friend, Allen (Andrew Moodie) in 25 years, So it’s no surprise that their reunion is a crazy night of laughter, drinking and dancing. As evening becomes day, the smiles begin to fade and the bottles sit empty. It is time for the old friends to revisit their soul-destroying memories of life in a small town.
Alan who comes from the only Black family in the town, fled Cape Breton for higher education in Toronto and never came back … till now. Handsome, military fit and charming, he is now very successful university professor. Allan admits he barely survived the experience of growing up in an all-white rural Nova Scotia community (“I let them call me Chalky — it was easier”). He is back and needs Dougie’s help to stare down their shared demons. No spoiler alerts needed, I won’t tell you who and what has destroyed the two men. It would ruin the shocking conclusion.
This is a play where you think the principal actor is the star when in fact it is the second banana – Moodie – who really in charge. At play’s end, you realize his character was always about love, redemption and justice.
Recognize 52-year old Moodie? Think back to the 90s and the wildly popular play called Riot. It was the first major play written by a person of colour and embraced by the established theatre community.
In that play, set in Toronto during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, six African-Canadian roommates discuss everything from Quebec’s political aspirations to who has and has not paid the rent…and the riots. The play deals with racism in Canada, instead of America. “Canada is ten times more racist than the United States,” says Moodie, In the play “they just hide it better.”
Since then, Moodie has appeared in close to 100 plays, movies and TV shows, including For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Da Kink in de hair, The Handmaid’s Tale and Star Trek: Discovery.
When the play ends and lights come on, Moodie continues to stay in character, glowering at the people who stood, whistled and clapped their approval for his and the rest of the cast’s performance in this must-see gripping black and white play that is in the midst of a cross-country tour. It runs at the Tarragon until the last day of March.