Letting go. At some point we all face this monumental task in order for our lives to move forward. In Gift Theatre's production of Vigils by Noah Haidle (which I last saw almost 8 years ago at the Goodman), we witness a young widow (Hillary Clemens) trying to come to terms with the loss of her firefighter husband (James D. Farruggio) who was killed in the line of duty. Before his Soul (Jay Worthington) duly leaves the world of the living, she captures it and holds it hostage in a trunk located at the foot of their bed. As her life attempts to move forward with a new gentlemen caller (Kyle Zornes), memories of the past interferes with the prospects of the future as both the Soul and the Widow search for a new type of freedom.
Passionately directed by Erica Weiss for uber talented Gift Theatre, Vigils is an intimate yet formulaic story that succeeds because of the integrity of the cast. Hillary Clemens is instantly winning as the young Widow who is as much caught between the living and dying as is the Soul is holding on to. To that end, Mr. Worthington's Soul contains a remarkable balance of angst and understanding while his counterpart Body, played by Mr. Farruggio, looks a bit too old for the part he was cast but is witty and passionate nonetheless. As the Wooer, Kyle Zornes brings the perfect level of sexuality and compassion to this role which could very easily revert to the schmaltzy in a different actor's hands.
Though Vigils is a compact theatrical piece with its short running time, the play tends to become repetitive for no apparent reason. All the pieces we need to know are in motion within the first twenty minutes, and instead of taking on more weighty issues, it reverts to retelling its origin tale ad nauseum without adding anything new to the mix. That is not to say that the piece is stagnant as it does put a twist on many conventions including the almost brutal nature the Widow holds the Soul hostage in a hope chest and the abusive interaction between the two when the Soul attempts to flee. It is in this context that Vigils is brilliant in its storytelling and in the end, why you will be thinking about this work long after you walk out of the theatre.
Vigils runs April 21 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave (at Lawrence) in Chicago.
Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, with Sunday matinees at 2:30pm. Single tickets, $25-$30, are available at 773-283-7071 or online at www.thegifttheatre.org. For calendar information visit www.TheatreinChicago.com.
Image: Jay Worthington in Vigils at the Gift Theatre. Courtesy: Joshua Longbrake.