Last night I saw the AEA Showcase presentation of “The Vigil or The Guided Cradle,” performed and presented by The Brick Theater, Inc. and Impetuous Theater Group. It was written by Crystal Skillman and directed by John Hurley. I was excited to see my first Skillman play (as I had attended the York Theater’s staged reading of her musical “That’s Andy” last year). Crystal has both the depth and the energy to write both musical theater and a play about torture with equal zest. Full disclosure: she’s my friend via the friendship between our husbands.
The play is a one-act, no intermission and ending in approximately 1 1/2 hours. But, as I told her after, I could have watched another act of the same mix of torture-and-time/dream-travel themes. The two leads, Susan Louise O’Connor and Christian Rummel, deftly “time-travel” in their own way between the Prague of the 15th Century and the Prague of the 21st Century. I really liked the “double-casting” of sorts between characters and how the director Hurley quickly switched between eras through the use of light, costume changes, and simple set design. I particularly liked O’Connor and Rummel, as they had a great realism to their acting choices. The other actors fulfilled their roles fine, but those two leads in particular seemed to really live onstage as their characters. Skillman and the production team handled the physical realism of torture well (as well as some deftly performed stage-blood violence). There was a lot of nervous-chuckling in the audience throughout, as Skillman made sure to invest some time in comedic relief (albeit from the most “bloodthirsty” of the torturers). It’s not a perfect play, but it’s such an interesting concept, one that I know can be delved into even further (I believe) for a two-act, full-length version. Skillman seemed happy that it was as short as it was, but I guess I’m just the audience member who’s truly in it for the long haul and enjoys a full meal of theater on a weeknight.
This review of the play on Backstage.com is pretty spot on, in my opinion.
“I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing” – William James