While “Vigil” focuses on a dark story — a misanthropic man waiting for his aunt to die — the play, written by Canadian Morris Panych, is filled with funny lines and situations, enhanced by two terrific actors, Patty Mintz Figel (Grace) and Larry Hecht (Kemp).
Cherry Creek Theatre presents its productions at the gorgeous Shaver-Ramsey Showroom, surrounded by exotic rugs — old and new — a setting used by designer Richard Pegg to enhance the look of each production.
The company is remounting a play these actors performed elsewhere seven years ago, also under the direction of versatile Billie McBride.
Lights focus on a bedroom, upstairs in an older home. In the bed, centrally placed, is an elderly lady — with an amazingly expressive face and eyes. Figel only speaks two words in Act I, but the audience can read her thoughts, from the first moment that the bell rings, the door downstairs opens and there are approaching footsteps on the stairs. A large man with a suitcase appears. She looks terrified.
It's Kemp, played to the hilt by veteran actor Hecht, who says he's quit his job at a second-rate savings and loan to come and stay with her while she dies.
He has received a letter from her saying she's dying and there is no one else in the family. (Nor does he have anyone else.) “I didn't expect you'd be glad to see me,” he observes. Does she want to be cremated? Figel's face registers fear and then puzzlement.
“I spoke to a funeral director,” he says the next day as the frilly apron-clad Kemp delivers a tray with butterscotch pudding. “You don't need recorded music.”
Ongoing criticism of his aunt for not having his picture anywhere — “I sent you one when I had the mumps” — nor coming to visit him, is mingled with bitter memories of a conflicted childhood and adolescence — he had gender issues and was bullied by schoolmates.
Now a bellicose middle-aged man with no friends, he is at once nasty and funny. And Hecht, who is almost the only voice we hear throughout, portrays Kemp brilliantly.
Time passes through Christmas, when she surprises him with a gift; New Year's Eve with champagne; the arrival of spring on the street. Kemp looks out the window regularly to report on what's going on and background sounds such as schoolchildren at play filter in.
Summer passes and it's almost fall when a surprise ending completes a really well-crafted evening of drama, so unusual that the theater aficionado won't want to miss it.
“Vigil” Plays at Cherry Creek Theatre, at Shaver-Ramsey Showroom, 2414 E. Third Ave., Denver. Performances through Oct. 27: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $28/$25, 303-800-6578, cherrycreektheatre.org. (Reservations suggested due to limited seating.)