I may have mentioned this a couple times, by I’ve never really been a Danial MacIvor fan. He’s a beautifully poetic playwright but I haven’t found his stories compelling enough to carry his poetry. That said, I loved The Best Brothers. It has a story simple enough to be told coherently and fully in one-act form and MacIvor holds back on some of the poetry, making room for startling honesty and far more comedy than I’ve ever heard from him.
I think the playwright hurts himself a bit by taking the role of older brother Hamilton Best. It’s a brilliantly written part (as is Kyle Best, the second in the titular pair attempting to mourn their recently deceased mother) and I would have loved to see one of the festival’s brilliant actors take it on with a bit more distance. MacIvor is a fine actor, but he doesn’t quite keep up with the great John Beale in the spit-fire role of Kyle.
The relationship between the two men is the sort of expertly crafted ode to brotherhood that rings hilariously and heartbreakingly true. Each had a unique and specific relationship with their mother and both are explored posthumously through their own and each other’s eyes in a particular poignant way (“She loved you best”, “but she loved you harder”). The plot unfurls as the details of the Best lives slowly unveil themselves, and every turn is just as interesting and revealing as the last.
Occasionally, one of the men takes on the persona of his mother to deliver a monologue more in the MacIvor tradition than the rest of The Best Brothers and I, predictably, would have preferred the play without that device. But it’s otherwise a personal and heartfelt delight, as funny as it is sad, and nothing short of poignant throughout.
The Best Brothers plays at The Stratford Festival Studio Theatre until September 16