‘Vigilance’ is a complex tale of friendship and revenge

Courtesy photoThoughtful thrills: Stephen Muterspaugh

Courtesy photoThoughtful thrills: Stephen Muterspaugh

Second Wind Productions has a winner of a show in “Vigilance,” a gripping drama about friendship, modern living, revenge and justice.

The show, onstage at the Phoenix Theatre, is directed by San Francisco playwright Ian Walker, whose deft, realistic dialogue brings his social and political themes to life.

Set in 1999 in a small bedroom community in California, the show follows three poker-playing pals — kind, straight-laced Dick; loud, opinionated Virgil; and mild-mannered Bert — and their plan to threaten a menacing neighbor who has been terrorizing their wives and kids, doing things such as driving wildly and exposing himself.

The sleazy Duncan (Steven Westdahl) clearly doesn’t fit in. The only reason he’s in the white-picket-fence neighborhood is because he won his house as a prize in a contest.

Despite, or maybe because, of their friendship with the local sheriff Frank (Leon Goertzen), the men decide to arm themselves and deal with their rage against Duncan outside the confines of the law.

Coloring their decisions are their imperfect relationships with their wives: Cathy (Kim Stephenson), who is underemployed and needs something more from Dick, and Marla (Natalie Palan Walker), who isn’t thrilled that Virgil isn’t working.

Even though the show’s tag line — “revenge is best served hot” — suggests a simplistic plot about getting justice at any cost, “Vigilance” offers more. It’s a thought-provoking, substantive examination of contemporary problems.

Humor is peppered throughout the drama, which Walker cleverly stages on a set depicting a kitchen and living room that simultaneously represents the interior of both couples’ homes. Watching the characters mill in and out of the houses is fun, and it’s easy to tell who belongs where; the theatrical device adds to the show’s appeal.

The actors, handling Walker’s occasionally dense verbiage, are uniformly convincing. Stephen Muterspaugh as the sedate Dick; Ben Ortega as the jittery Bert; and especially Mike Newman as the ring-leading, fast-talking, brash Virgil reveal a spectrum of human viewpoints, strengths and insecurities.



Presented by Second Wind Productions

Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason St., San Francisco

8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 25

Tickets: $20 to $25

Contact: (415) 335-6087, www.secondwind.8m.com

artsentertainmentOther ArtsSecond Wind ProductionsVigilance

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