Classic dystopian overtones prevail in MacArthur’s complementary pair of plays. Isolated exposes the panicked motives and desperate longings of the people in the midst of a spreading epidemic.
In the first play of the duo, “Get Away”, MacArthur explores methods of escapism through the relationships of his three characters. His amusing mockery of colloquialisms sets the stage for absurd relations, entirely natural, but no less deadening or alienating to whose recourse to theatre, music and collaging enhance the increasingly tense and intricately crafted separation between the internal and external in psychological, social and physical realms. This binary characterizes the worlds of both plays.
“Recovery” provides readers with a familiar blend of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Brave New World in its succinct portrayal of an institutionalized environment of sanctioned emotions and mind control. References to acutely recognizable features of popular culture remind us of our proximity to this prophetic world, the ends of our freedom and our too often willing submission to the processes that enable the dissolution of human potential. The emergence of a bleak future facilitated through omissions of the past, and the co-optation of once autonomous minds is separately dreaded, aided and rebelled against by the unique cast of characters who face it. MacArthur successfully nullifies any lingering optimism in his depiction of the half imagined/half all-too-possible fascist quagmire of human maintenance and sculpture.
Isolated provides two tidy tales of transition, solution and loss, and like any good story of apocalyptic warning, the fear that Isolated enlivens transcends era-specificity, and ensures MacArthur an enduring audience. (Cailin Bator)
by Greg MacArthur, $17.95, 156 pgs, Coach House Books, 401 Huron Street on bpNichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 265, chbooks.com