Vigilant Sorrow: KDT’s VIGILS

Kitchen Dog Theater hosts a benefit for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation on Friday, September 25, in honor of our nation’s fallen firefighters. Benefit performance tickets to Noah Haidle’s Vigils will be sold for $25. $10 of every ticket sold will be donated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The performance begins at 8 PM reception to follow, sponsored by Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill and iFratelli Pizza.

For tickets, please call 214-953-1055 or buy online at www.kitchendogtheater.org.

VIGILS4 Touch fire in ice. Feel the burn. The stabbing, searing agony of loss and lingering memories, torturous and addictive, re-imagines itself with a vengeance, casting all in reach into a hellish half-life. The numbness of existence after such loss punishes worse than death, each breath drawn rougher than the last, each step taken more cumbersome, any attempt at escape accompanied by gut-wrenching remorse like raging harpies, clawing at the eyes, eliminating restful sleep. No matter the pain and self-destruction involved, the moth returns to the flame. Until the inner fire fades and the ice simply melts away. And the heart can open.

Kitchen Dog Theater captures the excruciating essence of a wife’s experience of loss and her attempt to free herself from its clutches in the southwestern premiere of Noah Haidle’s Vigils. After her firefighter husband (Matthew Gray) perishes in a conflagration while attempting to save a child’s life, the Widow (Tina Parker) exists in a dim world where she alternates between re-living pivotal moments in her marital relationship and surreal conversations with her husband’s soul (Ira Steck), which she has imprisoned in a recessed wall box over their living room sofa. All sequential action takes place in her tiny studio apartment, present and past. High above the playing space floats a raked walkway where over and over and over the audience watches the fully rigged out, brave fireman battling a furious blaze in dramatic, mesmerizing counterpoint, calling out to a wailing child, “Hold on, I’m coming.” The cries cease. The flames engulf the struggling man. It’s almost more than an audience can sit through. Imagine how it feels to be the widow, reliving it for the five thousandth time. Enter a new man, the Wooer (Jim Kuenzer), who cautiously, clumsily, kindly attempts to draw the Widow out of her self-imposed Hell and to inspire her to release her dead husband’s captive soul to the universe, to the heart of God, or beyond.

Hyperrealism meets surreal conceptualism and intense psycho-suggestion. Like lightning the play moves from domestic interlude to self-reflection to classic high drama. It’s a breathtaking, satisfying experience. LA based director Aaron Ginsburg, founder and co-artistic director of Meadows Basement, considered one of LA’s best performance ensembles, creates taut, unforgettable stage pictures while spinning his cast through rapid-fire exchanges and carefully choreographed repetitions. Each actor is so at ease, exhibits such trust and commitment to the ensemble, it’s as though they are complimentary musical elements in a chamber-sized oratorio. Not one misstep or miscued line delivery, not one extraneous movement, yet totally natural and plausible. Vital, focused, in your living room real. Vigils must be equally exhilarating to actors and director alike at performance’s end, to know they have given all to the work and created a transformational reality, to recognize how profoundly they have affected an audience, and to realize how well they have served the theatrical muse. A deep bow to the production team: Stage Manager Ruth Stephenson, Set Designer Craig Siebels, Lighting Designer Laura McMeley, Costume Designer Christina Dickson, Sound Designer John M. Flores, Dance Choreographer Elaine Hewlett, Fight Choreographer Bill Lengfelder, Props Designers Jen Gilson-Gilliam and Judy Niven, and the glue that binds it all together, Technical Directors Abby Kraemer and Michael Wang. All worthy artists.

Vigils runs through Saturday, October 10 in the Heldt/Hall Theater at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary (The MAC) located at 3120 McKinney Avenue in Uptown.

For tickets or information: 214.953.1055 www.kitchendogtheater.org

About the playwright: Noah Haidle’s plays have been or will be produced at South Coast Repertory, The Long Wharf Theater, The Goodman Theater, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre, The Huntington Theater and The Roundabout Theatre Company. Haidle is currently working on a new play commission from The Goodman Theater and a screenplay for Scott Rudin Productions. He is a graduate of Princeton University and The Juilliard School, where he was a Lila Acheson Wallace playwright-in-residence. He is the recipient of three Lincoln Center Le Compte Du Nouy Awards, the 2005 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights and an NEA/TCG theater residency grant.

PHOTO– by Matt Mrozek. Top to bottom: Matthew Gray, Ira Steck, Tina Parker

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