Vertigo Theatre’s ‘Heist’ keeps you guessing.

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I’ve been looking forward to Vertigo Theatre’s production of Heist by Arun Lakra since it was announced. Lakra’s last play won many awards and his follow-up is much anticipated. This play does not disappoint, but it takes a lot of investment to get to the nugget at the center of the narrative. Who can you trust? Who is betraying whom? Lakra’s Heist is wrapped in trust and betrayal. Things are not as they seem, but it all unfolds on stage, in front of your eyes. It takes a while to get to it, but Heist is intricate enough that you wish you could rewind and go back. It is multilayered and elaborate. You risk not quite caring who is not a team player and who devised the whole plan. But if you stick with it, it’s worth it.

The play tells of Marvin (Griffin Cork), who is assembling a team of folks who can pull off a heist of a precious ruby. The team consists of Ryan (Praneet Akilla) ‘The Gilligan’/best friend, Fiona (Anna Dalgleish) ‘The Nerd’ of the crew, Angie (Charlie Gould) ‘The Mary-Lou’ and Kruger (Alexander Ariate) ‘The Muscle.’ The first heist is elaborate, complete with drones, lasers, and high-level hacking, all to steal a ruby worth millions. But a twist in the job makes it unsuccessful and everyone is wondering who betrayed the group. After all, they are like family, right?

Marvin then sets his sights on a job to lift a Satoshi diamond that is in the possession of ‘The Spider’ (Elinor Holt). This job requires even more finesse from the group. Can they pull it off?

The ensemble is strong for this narrative, though the accents (mostly Marvin’s Irish one) could use a little bit of work, but that might also work within the storyline. Cork is very capable of carrying this full storyline and guiding the audience through on what he wants them to see. Gould is a strong artist and she portrays Angie’s slipperiness so well. It is so refreshing to see Akilla on stage. He is measured, and his performance is nuanced. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him on Calgary stages. Dalgleish’s character doesn’t get quite as much development, but her performance is solid, while Ariate is somewhat one note, though his character has few nuances and is a source of humour.

Director Haysam Kadri ensures that the pacing is good and that all the relationships are kept straight, that nothing is a dead giveaway when all is revealed. Scott Reid’s projection design really gives this production a movie feel. Every character is analyzed on the screen, and there are pros and cons to this kind of stage performance. The audience expects a bit more of movie-level quality, and this is a bit of a letdown in this case. However, the added projection design allows the audience to really get a sense of these characters without having to be explicitly shown, which works in this performance. The set design, also by Reid, is simple, innovative, and dark, which suits the play nicely. Anton Degroot’s lighting design is critical in a heist narrative and certainly does not disappoint. Rebecca Toon’s costume design suits every character down to the hat that Marvin wears and the sophisticated look that Angie sports.

If you love heist movies, like Ocean’s Eleven or the first Mission Impossible, this stage production is definitely for you. Vertigo Theatre’s Heist lives by the anthem that there is no honour among thieves.

Heist by Arun Lakra plays at Vertigo Theatre until February 25th. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: The Cast of Heist, Photo by Fifth Wall Media.

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