The cast of Vigils.

Vigils: Love and Dramedy

A few years ago, I saw a production of Maybe Baby It’s You starring Laurie Jones and Brandon Little as a collection of mostly farcical romantic couples. The show was a laugh riot and upon seeing them as a sort of metaphysical couple in the Wishbone Theatre Collective’s production of Vigils by Noah Haidle, the show was already firmly on my good side. As a show that also touches on more serious topics like death, letting go, and the pain/joy of memories, Vigils is likewise quite successful.

The Widow, played by Jones, lost her husband two years ago to an accident, and before The Soul, played by Little, could escape to judgment, she trapped him and put him in a locked chest (and also a sort of S & M costume, but we’ll let that detail slide). Her Wooer, played by John Mark Sawyer, knows about the soul and hopes that it won’t ruin his attempts to date the Widow. Throughout all of this, we see memory flashbacks of the Widow and her firefighter husband’s Body, played by Ryan Hutton, attempting to save a baby from a burning building which led to his demise.

The play mixes farce, drama, romance, and slapstick and yet keeps them all under control with even-handed direction by Katie Jones. The play is rife with comic situations include a slow-motion brawl between the Widow and the Soul, a striptease/sexy outfit scramble by the Wooer and the Widow, and an over affectionate, mustachioed firefighting captain portrayed by Hutton. All four actors are comic powerhouses who play the farce for laughs, dialing it down for the more naturalistic moments. I imagine that there aren’t too many actresses who could wring a laugh out of a goofy, but serious line mentioning “miscarriage” but Jones is up to the challenge with this and similar feats throughout the play.

Being a sentimental myself, I appreciated the parts of the show that waxed on the philosophy behind losing love and memories. The Widow keeps the Soul close by so she doesn’t forget the love they had. We do the same thing nowadays when we scroll through the Facebook pictures of an ex or keep in touch with the occasional message. While this technological connection isn’t made in the play itself, I couldn’t help but think that technology is another factor that makes it harder than ever to fully let go.

The repetitive nature of the play not be for everybody, but it accurately mimics the mental patterns of the lovesick widow or break-up victim. All four actors munch up the comic aspects of the script with aplomb and Jones and Little are the standouts. Shout outs must go to John Mark Sawyer for designing an eerie set with a brilliant surprise at the end and the “I Love the 90’s” music selection by David Brown and Ben Elliff. For anyone who has loved and lost, Vigils is a powerful reminder of the pitfalls and the mercurial moments of ecstasy that love can yield.

Vigils is running May 6-7; 12-14; 19-21 @ 8pm; May 15 @ 3pm at the Atheneum Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

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