It's been about five years since we've had the pleasure of having Marco Barricelli on the stage of ACT's Geary Theater. One of the company's most talented alumni, he's re-teaming with formidable Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis in Morris Panych's dark comedy "Vigil." The premise of the play is deceptively simple- Barricelli is a misanthropic loser who pays a visit to his dying aunt whom he hasn't seen in thirty years in hopes of getting an inheritance and some stability for a life that hasn't any. He moves in and is waiting for her to check out, and the sooner the better. The only problem is that while the aunt is frail, she doesn't seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere now that she has some company.
Both of these actors are a delight. Dukakis has very little dialogue (only two words in the first act) yet she creates a fully-developed character through facial expressions and body language. She gives an engaging masterclass in physical, expressive acting. Barricelli delivers an almost two-hour monologue, which is divided into scenes of varying lengths- some less than a minute, others that play out in extended passages. Barricelli's comic timing is impeccable and while both roles are challenging, his has the added weight of having to make the audience get behind a character who really isn't at all likable.
The nephew can't wait for his aunt to die, and his impatience and inappropriate behavior lead him to make comments and ask questions that are sometimes shocking in their bluntness yet can also be extremely funny. Barricelli has some genuinely disturbing lines in this play that hit close to the bone. As morally bankrupt as his character is, Barricelli gives a nuanced performance allowing the audience to see a glimpse of a better man than the one standing in the aunt's dilapidated messy apartment.
Panych, who was behind ACT's beautiful "The Overcoat" a few seasons back, has a dream cast here to realize his play and he pretty much just turns them loose to do their thing. You'll laugh pretty hard through most of this show, though it will make you wince and give you something to think about long after you've left the theater. I for one, wouldn't recommend seeing it with your aging parents.