(photo: Tim Matheson)
Love, laughter and lesbian clichés in A Beautiful View
by Amy Barratt
I keep reading that A Beautiful View, the Daniel MacIvor play closing out the Centaur season, is inspired by today’s generation of 20-somethings. Something about how they are free to hook up with partners of either gender and not have to define themselves as gay or straight. I’m skeptical about this premise, but it doesn’t really matter because the characters on stage in this play are not of that generation. The two women, Linda and Mitch – names that are used in the programme but not once in the dialogue - are kicking forty when we meet them, presumably in the present day.
The playwright, who also directs this production, doesn’t let them so much as kiss onstage.
Their story is told in flashbacks, with no set and few props, with the actors frequently addressing the audience directly. Neither Linda nor Mitch is a lesbian, but each mistakenly – or not - identifies the other as one, and, a few drinks later, they wind up in the sack. As near as I can figure it, that’s the only time they hook up, although they go on to be best friends for many years (Lesbian cliché # 1). Even that one time, the playwright, who also directs this production, doesn’t let them so much as kiss onstage. I like to think that MacIvor, who’s gay himself, didn’t do this because he’s uncomfortable with girl-on-girl action but rather he’s trying to thwart the prurient interest of straight men. But perhaps, like one of his characters, I’m over-thinking this.
What A Beautiful View is not, is a play about “transcending sexual identity” or “eschewing labels”.
The two actresses in this co-production with Vancouver’s Ruby Slippers Theatre, Diane Brown and Colleen Wheeler, are delightful. Despite my fears that the play would be earnest and heavy, the writing and the performances are funny and sweet – much closer to Kissing Jessica Stein than The Kids Are Alright, although the latter was billed as a comedy too.
What A Beautiful View is not, is a play about “transcending sexual identity” or “eschewing labels”. It is in fact a play about being so afraid to name something that you end up missing the love of your life. Maybe MacIvor set out to write about the 20-somethings only to discover that there’s no dramatic tension to be had if everybody’s polyamorous and fine with it.
Be that as it may, the play feels like a literary throwback to the dark days where lesbians lusted and suffered in silence. And yes – spoiler alert – the ending is a lot more Well of Loneliness than… if only I could think of a lesbian fiction with a happy ending!
A Beautiful View is at Centaur
Running time: 90 minutes