A nephew helps his dying aunt welcome the Grim Reaper.

  • LAST SUPPER Gets, left, brings Stenborg her meals in bed; Photograph: Carol...

LAST SUPPER Gets, left, brings Stenborg her meals in bed; Photograph: Carol...

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Some people ignore social niceties; others wouldn’t recognize them if they wore name tags. Kemp (Gets) belongs in the latter category. In Morris Panych’s deliciously mischievous two-hander, Vigil, this middle-aged malcontent hurries to the bedside of an aunt he hasn’t seen in 30 years when she writes that she’s dying. How annoying when she keeps on living! As Grace (Stenborg) knits and eats butterscotch pudding amid the remnants of her life (Andromache Chalfant’s set is resplendently dilapidated), Kemp types her obit, rehearses her funeral, ponders what to do with her organs and occasionally tries to speed up death. It’s not that he’s in a rush to get his inheritance, but when you’re a self-obsessed loner whose main hobby is kvetching about sex, kids, holidays and his own wretched childhood, prolonged human interaction can be agitating.

A 14-year-old Canadian work receiving its New York premiere, Vigil won’t ever be mistaken for a well-made play. It has 37 scenes, many under a minute and some with no dialogue. Stenborg—who seems adrift in a sea of insanity at times—utters just two words in the first act. That leaves most of the vocalizing to Gets, who puts substantial effort into his feverish performance. Like Stephen DiMenna’s erratic direction, Gets’s acting touches comic nirvana, but he doesn’t always have the finesse this lightly tinged dark comedy requires. Still, Panych’s quirky North-of-the-Border sensibility and knack for depicting lonely characters with humor and heart keep the production’s candle burning.—Diane Snyder

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DR2 Theatre. By Morris Panych. Dir. Stephen DiMenna. With Malcolm Gets, Helen Stenborg. 1hr 40mins. One intermission. Tickets