My ongoing love/hate affair with Canadian Stage Company continues. They do often manage brilliance but on occasion, they do manage to bore me to tears. And I hate to cry. Unless it's at a particularly heartwarming commercial. For anything.
Billed as a dark comedy about death, I went to see Vigil starring Brent Carver and Martha Henry at Canadian Stage Company on October 30, 2004.
I'd previously seen Brent in Larry's Party at CanStage (a musical adaptation of the Carol Shields book that nearly worked) and before that some years ago in Kiss of the Spider Woman and in that he was excellent. What is it about him always managing to get down to his underwear in these plays? Is it in his contract or does he only seek parts written that way? No matter.
Poor Brent has 99.9 per cent of the dialogue. He made it through most of it without incident although I can't blame him for some of the stilted words he had to speak. His character has returned to wait for his aged and somewhat infirmed aunt to die. Ms. Henry's task is to basically lie in bed and react to her nephew's observations and witty remarks along with bitter remembrances of his youth which she is gamely able to do, a tribute to her skill and ability as an actress. She is able to elicit sympathy, empathy and laughter with ease. Mr. Carver does the same but with a torrent of dialogue and a lot of futzing about on a ridiculous set.
The problem with the play is that it would have read really well as a story. Story or stage dialogue is so different from your everyday vernacular that it just doesn't sound natural. As in Angels In America, my main complaint was that people simply do not speak like this. I understand heightened reality, I just don't necessarily have to appreciate it when it's heightened out of the realm of believability. Also see David Mamet, often praised for his writing style. His writing style is great, his dialogue sucks. Please take a simple lesson from Mr. Tarantino's diner scene in Resevoir Dogs as an example of dialogue people can relate to.
The dark comedy seemed more dark in a mean sense than a funny sense. I say throw caution to the wind, make fun of death, politics, religion but apart from reactions of shock and delight from the blue haireds in the audience, please remember not all of us have said blue hair yet.
Morris Paynch has been lauded and semi lauded depending on which review you read for this play. There is obvious brilliance oozing from Mr. Paynch's brain and you'll know what I mean if you were lucky enough to see the enthralling production of The Overcoat now wowing international audiences. It was dazzling and all done with movement and no dialogue. It was triumphant. Perhaps Morris was just bursting to use a whole lot of extra words since he couldn't in The Overcoat?
In what is becoming a habit for me, perhaps as I age (but before my hair turns blue), my tolerance wanes -- I left at intermission. No longer does it matter that tickets are overpriced for everything. I cannot justify sitting there in the dark and being tortured, exquisitely or not. My vigil ended early.