The one thing that can be said for certain while taking in the Daniel MacIvor comedy BINGO! at the Savoy Tuesday night is that the script has universal appeal. No matter what the age of each audience member, I would venture to say that 100% could relate to the dialogue as well as each of the individual characters throughout the two hour production. We have all known the class snob, the nerd, the introvert, misfit and tough talker under suspicion.
BINGO! takes us to the 30th high school reunion where we meet five distinctive characters who share an important phase of their collective lives that would shape their future decisions and choices. We take a trip by way of their reminiscences that chronicle the historical happenings through the three decades–the technological advances, despair over the environment, music and popular slang–from then to now.
The writing by MacIvor is superb, as expected. He weaves a familiar dialogue that recurs through different scenes, that cements your understanding of the close bond these characters have with one another.
You cannot imagine any other actors taking on these roles, as they so comfortably exude the characteristics and mannerisms assigned to each. Heather Rankin as Bitsy is outstanding. She collects the majority of the laughs, with her uninhibited attack as the ‘socially inept’ secret high school drop out. Straight away you empathize with her lack of confidence and her desire to fit in with the crowd, now as much as thirty years before. Her growth as a person in such a short series of scenes has the heartstrings of the audience held tight, as they celebrate what looks like a happy ending in her future.
I loved Ryan Rogerson as ‘Heffer’. Underneath the gruff and disheveled exterior is a teddy bear, with obvious regrets over painful life decisions. Rogerson takes us to that emotional place, with both his body language, expressions and soft sense of humor.
Emmy Alcorn plays ‘Boots’ the tough talking outcast of the crew. She’s spent her life as the subject of gossip and innuendo, ending up in a life of solitary employment and semi seclusion with her cats. As in the script, you don’t really like her because of her brass façade, but as with all of the characters once she lets her guard down, you encounter the real person and at least hope that all is not as tough under the shell.
Marty Burt plays ‘Dookie’ and we all know many ‘Dookies’. He’s the bully of the lot that began with innocent comments and pranks as a teenager but blossomed into full blown obnoxious attitude as an adult. He lies, he cheats, he demeans, and you really want to put him in his place for everyone’s sake, but as you discover more of his story, you almost feel sorry for him because he almost can’t help himself, and you begin to see a twinge of regret each time he speaks down to someone. He’s really afraid that ‘he’ doesn’t measure up and isn’t that typical of all bullies, put them down before they put me down.
My favorite of the cast would have to be John Beale as Paul (‘Nurk’). Though he’s considerably more reserved, he exudes the compassionate, insecure personality, which runs far deeper in his character than the others. We know he’s really a nice guy who despite professional success has had some personal hard knocks and we want him to come out the winner, which of course is one of the main points of the play. He’s the calm that cements the bond of the friendships and a ‘quiet’ yet loud presence throughout the night.
I especially liked the concept that had cast members open each scene with a personal retrospective on the thirty years, both true life historical and bits about their character allowing the audience an intimate observation into their background while being reminded of moments in time shared through music, news of the day, fads and pop culture.
The set design was simple yet accommodating. You were inside the hotel room. You were swaying to the music in the bar. It was instantly believable and not overpowering. The music served as the perfect backdrop to each and every scene and an intricate piece to creating this travel through time.
The play is extraordinary and accomplishes all it sets out to do both on and off the stage. The laughs are plenty and immediate. You understand these familiar characters, and join in on the emotional roller coaster as an empathetic bystander cheering them on to win at the game of life. A most enjoyable evening!