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BCAP Stages a Stirring, Haunting House

CFA directing and acting alums collaborate on one-man show

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When audiences file in to the BU Theatre to see Daniel MacIvor’s one-man play House, they will find no aisles, no orderly rows, and no risers. Instead, playgoers will take their places in a wide, group-therapy style circle, where they’ll be joined by Tim Spears, who remains seated for much of his 90-minute one-act performance.

The actor portrays the play’s sole character, Victor, described by one reviewer as “the prototypical loser,” who tells intimate, at times haunting stories laced with self-pity, longing, angst, rage, and wistfulness. Victor, as he likes to make clear, is not weird—he is f*cked up. “You are born weird,” he says, but “you get f*cked up.”

The play is being presented by BU’s Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) at the theater’s Lane-Comley Studio 210. It “was born out of an artistic hunger,” says Spears (CFA’06,’14), a College of Fine Arts MFA candidate. He has long wanted to work with former classmate and friend Tara L. Matkosky (CFA’10), director of the BU Summer Theatre Institute for high school students, who is directing House.

“We wanted something to do and started playing with the text,” says Spears, a project coordinator at the School of Theatre and BCAP webmaster and graphic designer. Trying to find the right voice to deliver that text, part gripping narrative, part rant, part entreaty, both captivated and exhausted the pair, they say. Early on, Spears played Victor as manic and tormented, in constant motion, and, he and Matkosky feared, off-putting. They were concerned about whether the audience would care about this man’s problems. Then they realized that Victor is “one of us,” neither manic nor insane, but “a man who requires a community which he’s never had before in order to stop being the victim of his own life, and pick a new dream,” says Matkosky, who directed BCAP’s production of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive in 2010.

“This role asks a lot more of myself than other roles,” says Spears, who earned a BFA in acting at BU and has taken to the stage for many productions here, including BCAP’s Good and A Question of Mercy. “Victor is looking to the audience for a connection, so the play really requires an open heart” for actor and audience alike. Although they may not exactly like Victor—he’s the kind of guy who gets arrested for starting fights in supermarkets—the audience “can’t just sit there,” he says, and not be moved by his dilemma.

“You’re laughing, then you’re crying, then you’re, ‘huh, what?’” says Matkosky. “It’s a big roller coaster.”

The play’s development felt a bit claustrophobic at times. “There was just the two of us,” Matkosky recalls. So they did workshops of House for small audiences of friends, gathering input from them as well as from BCAP artistic director Jim Petosa. “We are so pleased to provide Tara and Tim with the opportunity to further their exploration of this intriguing play,” says Petosa, director of the School of Theatre. “This collaboration between a professional alumna and a graduate student, who is a professional in his own right, is precisely the kind of work that BCAP aims to nurture.”

House premiered in Canada in 1991, with Victor portrayed by the playwright, who has revisited the role several times since. Born in 1962, MacIvor is a one of Canada’s celebrated and best known playwrights; his works include Never Swim Alone, This Is a Play, Monster, You Are Here, Cul-de-sac, and A Beautiful View. House reflects MacIvor’s gift as an offbeat, sometimes cranky, but acutely observant storyteller who carries the audience to unexpected places with passages like this one: “My father was in the septic tank business…And he was a bit of a septic tank hero because he saved a kid from drowning in a septic tank…so he had his picture in the paper and became a hero so that whenever you thought of septic tanks you thought of my father and whenever you thought of my father you thought of septic tanks. That happens with heroes. That’s association. Like when you think of war you think of soldier, you think of cop you think of doughnut. Like that.”

Now in its fourth season, BCAP serves as the professional production extension of CFA’s School of Theatre. Its mission is to foster significant interaction between members of the professional performing arts world and CFA.

House opens tonight Wednesday, November 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Boston University Theatre, Lane-Comley Studio 210, 264 Huntington Ave. Performances run through November 20, 2011; Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., with a post-performance talk-back on Sunday, November 13. Tickets are $20 for the general public, $15 for students, groups, and senior citizens. Members of the BU community are eligible for one free ticket at the door, subject to availability. Purchase tickets here, visit the BU Theatre box office or the box office at Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont St., or call 617-933-8600. To get to the BU Theatre by public transportation, take the T’s Green Line E trolley to Symphony or the Orange Line to Mass Ave.

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Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

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