Theatre review: Vigil is quirky, dark and full of inappropriate laughs

Quirky, dark and full of the right amount of inappropriate laughs, Morris Panych’s Vigil, currently on stage at the PAL Theatre, is made even more enjoyable by Allan Zinyk’s devilishly delightful performance.

Receiving word that his aunt Grace (Anna Hagan) is on her deathbed, her self-proclaimed misanthrope nephew Kemp (Zinyk) rushes to her side.  While the two haven’t seen each other in over 30 years, Kemp goes as far as to quit his job to be with her in her final hours, all in a hope of reaping some unknown reward.  As time passes though, Kemp finally realizes that dear old Grace may not even have a single foot in the grave and just might need a little push.

As a two-hander, one might expect Vigil to have some balance between its two characters but never one to make things easy, Panych gives all but perhaps 50 words in this nearly two hour show (with intermission) to Kemp.  Fortunately Zinyk is up to this Panych challenge, keeping things brisk through the multitude of sometimes very short scenes that are knit together.  A bundle of nervous energy, when Zinyk speaks we listen, and good thing he can hold our attention as Kemp never shut-ups.

But while Zinyk never misses a beat with Panych’s words, at the top of act two when Kemp becomes increasingly serious about offing his aunt, he does lose some of the momentum in the more physical aspects of the role.  All about the timing, hopefully by opening night (I saw a preview performance) the physicality of the role will be just as tight as the rest of his performance.

With only a handful of words, Hagan has an equally daunting task as foil to Zinyk.  While she spends a lot of time with a dour expression cemented to her face, Hagan’s sometimes bizarre reactions to Zinyk’s rants can be downright hilarious.

Allan Zinyk and Anna Hagan in the Like Minded Theatre Co-Op production of Vigil.
Allan Zinyk and Anna Hagan in the Like Minded Theatre Co-Op production of Vigil at the PAL Theatre through June 24, 2012.

Along with casting choices, director Kim Selody takes little for granted, assembling a stellar production team to bring this peculiar story to life (or should that be death).  Set designer Glenn MacDonald creates a realistic bedroom in the hands-down best set I have ever seen in the PAL Theatre’s black box while Mark Eugster works overtime with his lighting design.  Kevin McLardy provides a musical backdrop that simultaneously had me thinking of good old fashioned melodrama, a nod to silent films and, oddly enough, of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

As a celebrated group of “mature artists”, the combined years of experience by this cast and production team is evident in almost every aspect of this show.  With such an emphasis on youth in our entertainment industries it makes my heart glad knowing that there is still a place in our cultural milieu for those over forty.

4 Out of 5 Stars Vigil
PAL Theatre
14 – 24 June 2012

When an egotistical and embittered bachelor descends upon the deathbed of his old aunty to hasten her demise, he is appalled to find her health improving against all odds – and against all his hopes. Be prepared for a story of surprising turns; Vigil is deliciously absurd, incredibly funny and poignantly tender, with a twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets.

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