Tarragon Theatre opened its season this week with resident playwright and award-winner Daniel MacIvor’s heart-warming family comedy, The Best Brothers. Brought to Toronto after a successful run at the Stratford Festival earlier this year, MacIvor and John Beale master the lead roles of this Dean Gabourie directed play, and prove that just because you are family, it doesn’t mean you have to get along. When Hamilton (MacIvor) and Tyler Best (Beale) find out that their mother died of a terribly hilarious accident, their relationship is put to the ultimate test. While planning her funeral, they dig deep into their past relationship with their mother and realize that she definitely had her favourites when it came to love.
MacIvor and Beale share great chemistry on stage and really capture the essence of the two brothers. MacIvor’s Hamilton is a conservative architect, going through the typical, everyday motions of married life. Beale plays the liberal, gay, real-estate agent, trying to make the most of his life in Toronto. The back-and-forth bickering between the two is both hilarious and heart-warming. Their tactics range from slapstick fighting to salacious double-entendres and everything in between. At some points the constant squabble is almost too quick to follow, as the audiences’ laughter overpowers the next few lines, but the characters are too well-defined for you to dwell on it.
In between scenes the actors take turns portraying their mother, whose story is told through a series of micro-scenes. MacIvor blows the whole performance out of the water in these scenes. If you close your eyes and just listen to his speech you truly believe that he is a 75-year-old woman who was recently crushed to death by a drag queen.
With such powerful performers, this production benefits from being minimalistic in its other elements. Designer Julie Fox, uses the space effectively to draw focus to the characters at all times. The set is almost empty, save for a couch to the right, a chair to the left, and a chandelier at the back. The main stage itself is green – a subtle representation of the two brothers’ encounters with the green-eyed monster – and depict symbols and shapes created from various lighting effects (courtesy of lighting designer Itai Erdal), such as the mother’s coffin, or the grass of the park.
Sound designer Jesse Ash and Composer Jonathan Monro create a necessarily subtle and effective soundscape for the piece. The sound was audible only during the transitions between scenes, as underscoring, but it made a significant impact in affecting the audience, through developing the mood for each scene.
Tarragon’s The Best Brothers is an absolute must-see. If you have a sibling, this play is for you. If you have a pet, this play is for you. If you love heart-warming stories this play is, most definitely, for you.
The Best Brothers runs from September 25 to October 27. To reserve tickets call 416-531-1827 and ask for Tuya. Spots are limited. Tickets range from $21.00-$53.00 (including discounts for students, seniors and groups). Rush tickets can be purchased at the door on Fridays (6pm) and Sundays (1pm), beginning on September 27.