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Woman puts $1-billion bounty on treacherous ex-boyfriend in VIU play

Director Leon Potter presents ‘The Visitor’ at Malaspina Theatre
Billionaire Claire Zachanassian, played by Emily Dunigan (top), parades through town with her entourage - Daleal Monjazeb, Charlie Lincoln, Emma St. Laurent, Cameron Le and Curtis Magas (from left) - during rehearsals for the upcoming VIU theatre production, ‘The Visitor.’ (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island University’s next theatre production features revenge, manipulation and choreography.

From March 3 to 5, the VIU theatre department presents The Visitor at Malaspina Theatre. The play tells the story of a rich woman who returns to the destitute town of her birth and offers $1 billion if her treacherous ex-boyfriend, who still lives there, is killed.

“It’s very much almost clown-like in the sense where everything is big and over the top and dramatic and almost insane to look at,” said actor Riley de Ruiter, who plays the ex-boyfriend.

“But the plot itself is very dark and it really showcases the moral dilemma that we face in reality of ‘what will you do for money?’ and ‘what is too much to ask for?’” added Emily Dunigan, who plays the revenge-seeking billionaire.

The Visitor is an adaptation of the 1956 play The Visit by Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Director Leon Potter said his version has been updated to make it more relevant. It’s also being done in the style of “physical theatre.”

“Rather than two people being naturalistically inside of a scene, you would actually have a choreographed routine that they would be going through to help emphasize what it is that’s going on…” Potter explained. “It’s less natural and real and more of an artistic statement.”

For Dunigan, physical theatre combines her two loves: theatre and dance. She was a dancer for 20 years and says the production is dance-influenced.

“We do a lot of interesting tricks,” she said. “We have a whole ballroom dancing section, which is kind of interesting because usually it’s always musicals that just focus on things like that instead of just traditional theatre.”

Potter said he trained in physical theatre a long time again but hasn’t incorporated it into a VIU production in many years. De Ruiter said the result is a unique hybrid of theatre and dance.

“It’s not exactly a play, it’s not exactly a musical, it’s not exactly an opera. It’s kind of a mixture of all of it,” he said.

This is Potter’s first time presenting an adaptation of The Visit and he said he’s been enjoying “sinking [his] teeth into it.” It’s also his first production at Malaspina Theatre since William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead in March 2020.

“On the very last weekend of the show we got the call saying ‘Nobody come in, we’re locked down’ and that was it….” he said. “So, yes, this is my first one since being back and I’m very excited about that, too. Boy did it feel good to be back in rehearsals.”

WHAT’S ON … The Visitor at Malaspina Theatre, VIU Bldg. 310, from March 3 to 5. Tickets $15, $10 for students. Available at the door or online.

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