New West, Theatre Outre team up for deathbed com­edy

‘Vigil’ be­gins Wed­nes­day at Tri­anon Ball­room

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Dave Ma­bell dma­bell@leth­bridge­herald.com

For most of us, death is no laugh­ing mat­ter. But a Cana­dian play­wright fused wis­dom, irony and hu­mour into a deathbed com­edy that’s been ap­plauded around the world.

Cal­gary-born Mor­ris Panych wrote “Vigil” in 1995, with its pre­miere per­for­mance in Vic­to­ria. It’s since been pro­duced in Cal­gary, across Canada and the U.S., as well as in Ed­in­burgh and Lon­don’s West End. It’s also been pro­duced in French.

Now “Vigil” is be­ing pre­sented in Lethbridge, open­ing Wed­nes­day as a co-pro­duc­tion by New West Theatre and Theatre Outre. It’s slated for 11 per­for­mances in the his­toric Tri­anon Ball­room — now an art gallery.

“It’s a very time­less story,” says di­rec­tor Kathy Zaborsky, a long­time New West vo­cal­ist. Ac­tive in theatre groups in Cal­gary and Can­more as well as Lethbridge, she re­calls read­ing the script shortly af­ter it was pub­lished.

“I thought it was a great script — it should work with New West,” she re­al­ized then.

For Outre artis­tic di­rec­tor Jay White­head, she adds, it’s been on his “bucket list” for years.

Now he and New West vet­eran Erica Hunt get to present the ac­claimed Cana­dian work — one of dozens of Panych plays (in­clud­ing “Girl in the Gold­fish Bowl,” “The Ends of the Earth,” “What Lies Be­fore Us” and “The Tres­passers”) which delve into the mean­ing of life.

The death-watch “vigil,” ex­plains Zaborsky, lasts far longer than ex­pected. Kent, an aloof bank em­ployee who re­turns home to take care of his frail aunt, even tries to hurry the process — but fails.

Over time, how­ever, he learns he’s not re­ally as dis­tanced from peo­ple around him as he thought.

“A re­la­tion­ship forms be­tween them,” even though the bedrid­den woman re­mains tac­i­turn.

Hunt doesn’t have a lot of lines to speak, the di­rec­tor says. “But she is a very preva­lent force.”

And while the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the long-es­tranged aunt and nephew takes place in a gloomy up­stairs bed­room, Zaborsky says the mood re­mains up­beat.

“Jay and Erica are of­fer­ing such a won­der­ful per­for­mance,” judg­ing by their re­hearsals.

“I can’t wait for the au­di­ence to see it, and laugh along with them.”

The show — rec­om­mended for au­di­ences 14 and up — is the first in many years that New West is stag­ing away from the Yates Cen­tre, now un­der ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion. Its artis­tic di­rec­tor, Sharon Peat, se­lected the spa­cious Tri­anon Gallery for this pre­sen­ta­tion, with a re­minder that ac­cess is by a long stair­case.

Show­times are 7:30 p.m. from Wed­nes­day to Nov. 18 and then again from Nov. 21-25. Two Satur­day mati­nees are also of­fered, both at 1 p.m.

Tick­ets are avail­able by phone at 403-329-2616, on­line at newwestthe­atre.com/tick­ets or in per­son at the re­cep­tion desk in the Penny Build­ing, 324 5 St. S.

Her­ald photo by Ti­jana Martin @TMart­inHer­ald

Erica Hunt, left, and Jay White­head will be per­form­ing in Theatre Outre and New West The­ater's pro­duc­tion of “Vigil.”

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