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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

Next Act's 'Vigil' Finds Comic Balance

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Next Act Theatre's production of Morris Panych's Vigil is a work of art. The darkly comic story of a man waiting for his aunt to die requires a precise balance that director Mary MacDonald Kerr and company execute quite well.

Mark Ulrich plays the villainous nephew, a cartoonish, larger-than-life creation reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote. (Near the end of the first act, he produces a contraption that looks so absurd I found myself looking for the Acme logo on it.) Despite the exaggerated style, Panych does add some depth to the character in his script, and Ulrich manages the challenge of adding some internal complexity to the ridiculous, comic villainy of his character.

Given very little dialogue, Ruth Schudson manages a balancing act of her own. Much of the character's stage presence must come through body language and facial expressions. Most actors would want to exaggerate the physicality of the character, running the risk of robbing her of genuine emotion. But Schudson, as befits a stage actor of her talent and experience, finds the perfect middle ground.

Next Act Theatre's production of Vigil runs through Feb. 26. For ticket reservations, call 414-278-0765.