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Photo credit Fifth Wall Media // Charlie Gould

Vertigo Theatre’s Heist will steal your heart

By Ansharah Shakil, February 15 2024—

Heist, the new play by local surgeon and playwright Arun Lakra showing at Vertigo Theatre, is as fascinatingly loveable as any of the classic films in the heist genre itself. In its world premiere, Heist dazzled audiences as the kind of play that will keep the gears in your head turning long after you’ve left the theatre, playing with the conventions of heist films through its theatrical medium. 

The premise of the play revolves around a compelling cast of criminals who attempt to pull off a diamond heist after their last attempt at stealing a ruby. Marvin (Griffin Cork) is the mastermind behind the heists within Heist — he introduces the audience to the world of the play, delivering a monologue worthy of being analyzed as soon as the play is over. 

We’re thrown into the first heist before being interrupted four times so that Marvin can introduce the team of criminals he’s handpicked, flashing back to when he recruited them and projected their criminal profile on stage, a trick that delighted audiences each time. One of the most fascinating parts of the flashbacks involved any other actors not involved in the flashback freezing in place until the play kick-started back into the present, movements completely still when required and fluidly moving through their next actions as soon as they needed to. These kinds of methods show how Heist adapts its genre to the play format in an unique and impressive manner.

The first assembled criminal is the laid-back and charismatic Ryan (Praneet Akilla), in it more for the thrills than the money and instantly falling for the next member of the team — Angie (Charlie Gould), a skillful and acrobatic thief with a moral code. The remaining members are Kruger (Alexander Ariate), who serves as the muscle of the group, and plucky student-hacker Fiona (Anna Dalgleish). The five criminals are on a mission to steal the Satoshi Diamond from the mysterious and threatening crime lord known as The Spider (Elinor Holt), whose terrifying reputation includes rumours of venomous tarantulas.  

The actors fully inhabit their roles — Akilla and Gould are major standouts not just when it comes to their chemistry together, but through their individual portrayals. Ariate and Dalgleish likewise turn the tropes of their characters into something new and unexpected. Despite him being the leader, the members of Marvin’s team are far more interesting than Marvin himself, but he’s at his best when he gets the chance to interact with the other characters — especially with Akilla. 

Though some of them remain at odds with each other, Marvin’s team grows thick as thieves, almost harnessing the found-family energy of action-crime drama Leverage. But things don’t go exactly to plan for Marvin’s first heist, and the team begins the second on edge and suspicious of betrayal. 

While Heist doesn’t do much for its costume design, its set design is admirably innovative and the vision for what it intends to be is perfectly clear. Love for the heist genre is present in nearly every aspect of the production. Amidst the witty quips — the most amusing of which are Fiona’s references and Kruger’s line about taking part in the heist to pay for his daughter’s braces and Taylor Swift tickets — and long-running jokes — take a shot every time Kruger mentions tarantulas — is the tension in every scene between each member of the team. No one quite knows what’s going to happen. There are twists that you can’t possibly see coming and twists that you see coming right before or right after they finally arrive, when there’s that click in your head and realization of what’s going on. It’s one wild ride from start to finish, and the experience of seeing it for the first time is something you can’t forget. 

Heist runs until Feb. 27. Tickets can be found on Vertigo Theatre’s website.

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