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vancouverplays review


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— Production photo

by Julie McIsaac

This is Jerry's review of the premiere performance at the Firehall in 2016.

Julie McIsaac’s new play, The Out Vigil, offers up an impressive display of local talent. Produced for the Firehall by Twenty Something Theatre, the play under Sabrina Evertt’s crisp direction provides a drenching of melodrama and romance in a salty brew embracing two distant coasts—Newfoundland and Alaska. The music is sublime and the acting very fine, even though the unnecessarily naturalistic Newfoundland accents make much of the dialogue impossible to understand. It’s a feel-good evening and a great showcase for some of Vancouver’s hottest young artists.

McIsaac’s script is like a Maritime fish stew, and she’s thrown everything into the pot. Newfoundlanders Lizzie (Stephanie Iszak) and Danny (Matthew MacDonald-Bain) have a struggling outport romance that involves hockey, a drowning, a pregnancy and the brutal economy of the North Atlantic fishery. So naturally, they both end up in Alaska where Danny hopes to cash in on the lucrative but dangerous crab season by crewing on the boat of the world’s most obnoxious rookie skipper, Cal (Zac Scott). If you watched the final episode of Downton Abbey, you’ll have a good idea how this all ends.

The songs and musical accompaniment McIsaac has composed and arranged are fantastic, played onstage by Christina Cuglietta (fiddle) and Alison Jenkins (squeezebox and whistle), who share the performance space. Sometimes MacDonald-Bain and/or Scott join them on guitar. There’s a great song that opens the second act (“She’s a downtown girl/She’s a get-around girl/She’s a downtown girl for sure”), and the title song that ends the play—enacting the good-luck ritual outport women perform for their men at sea—is utterly exquisite.

Iszak, a rapidly rising star, is terrific as Lizzie and MacDonald-Bain almost matches her beat for beat, though it’s a pity that so much of their rapid-fire dialogue is lost (especially if you sit house left). Scott struggles to make sense of his puzzlingly creepy character. Ian Schimpf provides the versatile set and straightforward lighting.

Kudos to the Firehall, which, along with The Cultch, is providing opportunities for companies and talent like this to show us the future of Vancouver theatre.

Jerry Wasserman


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