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BWW Reviews: HOUSE - If These Walls Could Talk

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House

Written by Daniel MacIvor, Directed by Tara L. Matkosky, Featuring Tim Spears as Victor; Scenic Designer, Eleanor Kahn; Costume Designer, Leonard Augustine Choo; Lighting Designer, Heather Skye Sparling; Sound Designer, Stephen Dee; Stage Manager, Leigh Robinette

Performances through November 20 by Boston Center for American Performance at Boston University Theatre, Lane-Comley Studio 210, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-933-8600 or  www.bostontheatrescene.com or  www.bu.edu/cfa/bcap

For those of us who consider it therapeutic to experience a live stage performance and enjoy the camaraderie of strangers in a darkened theatre, Daniel MacIvor's House offers a living, breathing opportunity to be a vital cog in the presentation of the play, fulfilling the dual functions of audience member and therapy group observer. Upon entering the Lane-Comley Studio 210 space upstairs at the BU Theatre, one can't help but notice the circular array of mismatched chairs and couches, every seat positioning its occupant to face the other paying customers, as well as the actor who addresses the group, telling his stories for the next seventy-five minutes.

Tim Spears is Victor, a self-proclaimed normal guy who differentiates between weird ("You are born weird") and f***ed up ("You get f***ed up") as he explains himself and tries to find the path to happiness. So far, things have not gone well in his life, despite doing everything he thought you were supposed to do. He doesn't like his job working for a septic sanitation company where he is more or less invisible. His boss ignores him, his wife doesn't like him, and his therapy group leader doesn't get him. Victor is adrift, without a support community, and reaches out to us as his captive audience, hoping that we will, at the least, listen to him.

Spears could be doing a stand-up routine, as he rants about the contents of the cart of the woman ahead of him in the supermarket line, or regales us with stories about his wife's indifference, or imitates his dim co-workers. However, the actor injects Victor with aspects of humanity that are veiled by the character's tendency to make everything be about external causes. When he describes the good-natured, off-handed jocularity commonly found in the workplace or the locker room, Victor flatly says, "I never had it (camaraderie)," but Spears imbues the remark with so much more with his facial expression, a mix of apology and sadness.  

The one thing that Victor has going for him is home ownership. Not only is it the American Dream, but it also represents for him the dream of a family and being part of a community; normalcy, as it were. He occasionally jumps up from his chair, raising his arms above his head à la Rocky Balboa, and proclaims, "House!" Although the act leaves him looking sheepish, just using the word seems to empower him, to give him a foundation to stand on in his increasingly unstable world.

MacIvor uses Victor as a character study to explore how someone can change his life, no matter how bad it seems. The discomfort he feels is reflected, in varying degrees, in the faces of the audience. This group encounter is uncharted territory and most of us are unsure of how to react when the lights are up and illuminating us, too. Victor invites, even implores, audience response and may or may not get it on any given night. Spears must roll with that and react accordingly. Director Tara L. Matkosky has explored the angles of the character with Spears to find a genuine voice for him and portray him as someone who no longer chooses to be a victim. By telling his stories to an audience willing to listen, Victor hopes to be able to let go of his past and find a new future.

This darkly humorous "House" merges realism with suspension of disbelief and removes many of the ordinary theatrical boundaries. Not only is there no fourth wall, the other three are also non-existent. The lighting design by Heather Skye Sparling and Stephen Dee's sound design are well-synchronized and alter the mood and/or the moment when Victor snaps his fingers. It would be great if life could be like that, but it is all too clear that it only works in Victor's reality. Still, it implies that each of us has the power in our own hands to be the change agent we need for our lives to move forward.  In the world according to Victor, if you want it badly enough, it's a snap.  

Photo credit: Boston Center for American Performance (Tim Spears as Victor)  

 


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