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BINGO! players 

Daniel MacIvor’s new play sees five friends before a high school reunion. Kate Watson takes a walk down memory lane.

click to enlarge The BINGO! cast excels at both acting and singing ’80s hits. - JANET MACLELLAN
  • The BINGO! cast excels at both acting and singing ’80s hits.
  • Janet MacLellan
For Daniel MacIvor, writing his new play BINGO! began as something of a lark, a respite from a darker work he had just finished. He describes himself as emerging from an intense writing experience working on a romantic tragedy called Arigato, Tokyo at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

"I was sitting around with a bunch of other playwrights, and we starting joking about collaborating on a comedy," recalls MacIvor on a lunch break from rehearsals of BINGO! at The Living Room on Agricola Street. "When they left, I thought, 'I'm going to see if I have a comedy in me.'"

The result is the story of three men and two women who come together for a memory-filled meeting on the night before their 30th high school reunion. The five are getting together for the first time as adults; there are some tensions to be resolved and some romantic flames to be fanned. Needless to say, this is all done over copious amounts of alcohol (hence the title---"Bingo" is a drinking game) and with a soundtrack of some great '70s and '80s tunes.

MacIvor, missed both his 20-year and 30-year high school reunions and calls the production "wishfully autobiographical."

"I didn't have the same kind of high school experiences that these characters had. I had friends, but not groups of friends," he says. "It's like I'm nostalgic for something I never had."

The play is set in MacIvor's hometown of Sydney, Nova Scotia, and he admits that the characters are based on real people---or at least real types of people---he has known.

"I think the way it works is that people recognize others, but not themselves," he says with a laugh, as his Italian greyhound, Buddy, settles onto his lap. "Somehow these characters are familiar yet unique."

BINGO! is being produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre, and MacIvor has cast its artistic director Emmy Alcorn in one of the roles. "I can't imagine anyone better for the part," MacIvor enthuses. "And I'm extremely happy to be working with Mulgrave on this play. Emmy understands the way I like to work, that I like to direct the first production so I can rewrite while I'm working."

MacIvor was impressed by two of the other cast members, John Beale and Ryan Rogerson, in The Crucible at Ross Creek last summer, and approached them about BINGO!. Singer Heather Rankin had worked with MacIvor on the film adaptation of Marion Bridge, and he says it was "fortuitous" that she was looking for a theatre role at the same time he was casting.

As for the last cast member, Marty Burt, MacIvor says that everyone knows his work and that he is just perfect for the role. And although the play is not a musical, MacIvor says that the fact that this particular collection of actors all have terrific voices makes for some tuneful moments as they sing along to their high school favourites.

BINGO! will travel to three sites in Nova Scotia---Halifax, Guysborough and Glace Bay---and the Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg next year. MacIvor is curious to compare audience reactions---the Cape Breton crowd who'll recognize the true-to-life setting of Sydney, and the westerners who may not necessarily get the jokes.

"East coast humour has a certain kind of sardonic or ironic quality to it. We can poke fun at ourselves and be affectionate about it," he says. "I've always thought of it as a very delicious kind of humour. It will be interesting to see if they see it the same way out west."



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