Between 1991 and 2007, Daniel MacIvor made an international name for himself by writing and starring in a series of one-man shows (“House,” “Here Lies Henry,” “Monster”) in which he played a variety of characters often trapped in a frightening urban gothic nightmare. Then he announced he had exhausted the form and went on to writing plays for other actors to perform (“His Greatness,” “A Beautiful View,” “How It Works”). But a series of events in MacIvor’s own life brought him back to the form with his long-time directorial/dramaturgical collaborator, Daniel Brooks. The end result is “This Is What Happens Next,” a work that is simultaneously the most personal and least melodramatic of all MacIvor’s works.
While there are obvious factual links in MacIvor’s recent divorce, alcoholic father and problems with various addictions, the author has made it clear this is not to be taken purely as a piece of autobiographical theater.
Unlike the sock-you-in-the-face beginnings of many of his other solo shows, this one actually sneaks into the theater, with MacIvor himself arriving late, coming down the aisle — Starbucks cup in hand — and spinning an amusing excuse about a slow barrista and a demanding customer. He starts changing his shoes and sweater, not unlike an indie theater version of Mr. Rogers, and then slides into the story he has to tell.
It’s a bunch of stories, actually. The central figure is a gay man named Warren (obviously the MacIvor surrogate), who has broken up with his philandering, substance-abusing partner and is debating about a return to their home to pick up some final belonging. But this tale neatly overlaps with the saga of a brittle lawyer named Jane whose life hasn’t worked out the way she wants and now spends her weekends “taking Air Percocet to gin lake.”
We’ve also got an unrepentant alcoholic father named Mike, a troubled young boy named Kevin and various slightly surreal characters like a transsexual astrologer and a giant who quotes Schopenhauer.
It’s filled with MacIvor’s typically acid wit, but there’s a new compassion here as well and Brooks seems to have noted this, giving the production a far less stark, hyper-theatrical feeling than their previous collaborations.
Some MacIvor fans will miss the Grand Guignol excesses of his earlier monodramas, but for those interested in looking inside an author’s soul, “This Is What Happens Next” will prove a satisfying journey.