SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.: Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor learned two valuable lessons in the writing of The Best Brothers, his popular two-man comedy, which has played all over Canada and is now making its U.S. premiere at the Ensemble Theatre Company, Dec. 4–21. (Another American production goes up at Massachusetts’s Merrimack Repertory Theatre in January.)
Lesson one: Sometimes a dramaturg can be the best kind of spy. While working on an earlier play at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, where MacIvor is the resident playwright, dramaturg Iris Turcott secretly took notes whenever MacIvor regaled her with off-topic rants about a new special someone in his life.
That certain someone constitutes lesson two: Don’t get a dog if you don’t want to be driven mad, then fall madly in love.
“I happened to mention to Iris that the Stratford Festival wanted a play from me, and I didn’t know what to write,” said MacIvor by phone. “She said, ‘How about the play about the dog?’ I said, ‘What play?’ ” Turcott showed him her notes: a series of complaints about his Italian greyhound puppy, Buddy, who blithely ate its way through MacIvor’s personal effects. “Willfulness in bodily form” is how MacIvor described his puppy—which, now that it’s five, he has come to cherish like a child.
He wrote The Best Brothers as a vehicle for himself and the actor John Beale. The play follows two contrasting siblings, reunited by the death of their mother—and joined in their love/hate relationship with a pesky (offstage) canine.
“There’s a conversation about metaphysics buried in it, if you’re tuned into it,” said MacIvor. “But it’s a very friendly play. Even my harshest critics said they liked it.” And his dog? He thought the play was delicious.