Is there a more symbol-rich icon of suburbia than the cul-de-sac? With intimations of dead-end claustrophobia and insular intimacy, it has long served as a device of dramatic huis clos, perhaps most notably in Jane Martin’s 1981 Cul-de-Sac in which a rape victim turns the table on her assailant. Daniel MacIvor’s new solo drama also focuses on a victim—a gay man murdered in the middle of the night. More interested in the eccentric than the psychological, this Cul-de-Sac amounts to an amusing but shallow panorama of suburban-gothic grotesquerie.
Working on a bare stage, MacIvor impersonates six neighbors who claim to have overheard the grisly homicide, each giving his or her account of the fateful night. These loquacious homebodies (two bickering couples, an ornery codger, and one very resentful ‘tween) deliver their monologues with a penchant for creative embellishment—their unreliability is, ironically, the source of their likability.
MacIvor mines his caricatures for every ounce of empathy and even the occasional nugget of wit. (As one of them reminds us, cul-de-sac literally means “ass of the bag.”) But the humor gets lost amid director Daniel Brooks’s overreliance on sound effects as well as some pretentiously moody dialogue. “Life is a dead-end road,” MacIvor intones. The brief smirk on his face suggests a different play in which lines like those are mercifully absent.