This is What Happens Next – Review

This is What Happens Next

January 23 – February 3, 2013

Martha Cohen Theatre

Listen to my review on CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener at


Prominent American actor/director Terrence Mann once said, “Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” While the Broadway star probably didn’t have Daniel MacIvor in mind when he spoke those words, the notion could be no truer than describing the triple threat Canadian talent. Often touted as a national creative legend, MacIvor is an award-winning writer, director and actor in film television and theatre. But while he’s won accolades and awards for his screen work, large and small, it’s MacIvor’s stage genius that is his biggest calling card. And it’s his prolific solo productions that have fine-tuned his talent and made him so “good’.

This is What Happens Next is the latest in a long line of solo shows MacIvor has created in collaboration with his artistic partner Daniel Brooks. In many ways, it’s a typical show for the duo as MacIvor  once again plays several different characters in the monologue performance. But there’s also something very different about this show – the stories are real. Mined from the fodder of MacIvor’s own life, This is What Happens Next is a kind of autobiographical musing told through both first person confessional and nonfiction disguised as hazy, dark, but very funny fairy tale fantasy.

The show opens with MacIvor running through the audience, Starbucks cup in hand, apologizing for being late. This segues into a twenty-minute stand-up routine about lattes,  lost love and life changes. It’s all classic MacIvor –  frenetic, extremely funny, perfectly performed and  very well-timed. He’s got the audience eating out of his hand right from the start. Then employing a somewhat clunky and gimmicky device, the show morphs into the storytelling portion of the play. After all, says MacIvor, the truth will only get you so far on the stage. Playing six  different, but related characters, MacIvor offers up everything from a Percocet-fuelled lawyer named Susan whose daughter dresses like a vampire to a transsexual astrologer to a little boy named Kevin who makes up wild stories to help him deal with his dad’s drinking. The clever thing about it all is that each of these characters is MacIvor on some metaphorical level. They’re telling parts of his story.  And while it’s interesting trying to pick out the truths in the interwoven narratives, most of the fun comes from watching MacIvor do what he does best, go from one character to another bringing different personalities to life unaided by props, makeup or costume.

Which is not to say the production is a blank canvas. Here the lighting and the sound take on an almost set-like quality with their stupendously effective mood and character cues. In particular, Kimberly Purtell’s lighting in a scene where MacIvor re-enacts a lover’s spat about coming to bed is so perfectly present and dramatic that it really should be given a co-starring role. Richard Feren’s sound likewise not only takes the show to another level, it also saves a few of the weaker scenes from trailing off into indulgence. It’s always a challenge in these one man shows – what do you look at for ninety minutes that keeps things fresh and compelling?   In this case MacIvor and his team serve up a stimulating and challenging feel to the production that keeps audiences involved throughout the show.

MacIvor claims early on in the production, both as himself and as one of his characters, that the goal of This is What Happens Next is to make the audience laugh and to give us a happy ending. Modest goals given what I believe he accomplishes on stage. Even if I’m not sold on the two approach process of the show which splits the narrative up between the real MacIvor and the characters he plays. I would have liked a smoother arc and a more cohesive narrative. But here’s the thing, even a less than perfect MacIvor makes for an excellent night in the theatre. The show is entertaining, funny, thought-provoking and at times heartbreaking.. yup… the theatre has certainly made Daniel MacIvor very good.


For the guys – You don’t have to be sexually confused, alcoholic or dumped to relate to the characters MacIvor offers up. But you do have to be ready to laugh and then made to think about the undercurrent of the humour. SEE IT

For the girls – The emotions and feelings MacIvor illustrates are genderless in their appeal. You’ll want to comfort his characters and smack them all at the same time. It’s a good dichotomy. SEE IT

For the occasional theatre goer – You’ll love the first part as a comedy act, but things may get too surreal and whacky once the characters come into play. MAYBE SEE IT

For the theatre junkie – The show has been touring around North America since 2010 and Calgary is the last stop for the show before MacIvor retires the performance for good. So really this is a catch it while you can theatre experience. SEE IT

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