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Girl on the Train gives Vertigo audiences a supermarket thriller on stage

Here’s a question worth investigating: Why are Vertigo shows so much fun?

The latest Vertigo show, The Girl on the Train, is a perfect example of the pleasures of investigating murder and mayhem on stage.

An adaptation of a bestselling novel by Paul Hawkins and a film that starred Emily Blunt and Justin Theroux, The Girl on the Train is the theatrical equivalent of a supermarket thriller.

I never read the novel or saw the movie so I felt a little bit behind Thursday night, trying to catch up to the journey of Rachel Watson (Lauren Brotman), who we meet after a bender-gone-bad. Rachel has a gouge on her forehead, a hangover and there are gaps in her memory of Saturday night, when a neighbour named Megan Hipwell (Filsan Dualeah) went missing.

Rachel is the third wheel in the relationship between Tom (Tyrell Crews) and Anna (Anna Cummer) – she’s the ex  who won’t let go – and every single encounter she has with another person, whether it’s Tom (Tyrell Crews), Anna or Megan’s distraught husband Scott (Stafford Perry) is fraught with social awkwardness.

Megan disappeared at a train station, Rachel may or may not have been there when it happened, and by the time the cops, in the person of D.I. Gaskill (Jamie Konchak) gets down to it, she seems to be the primary suspect – the single, formerly-wed, alcoholic wild woman with a spotty memory.

It turns out that the boozing cost Rachel her job downtown, but Rachel continues to ride the train downtown every day, the better to gaze in on the lives of people who live in buildings along the tracks, including Scott and Megan’s place, where she has grown fond of watching them from the trains she commutes to nowhere.

Creeped out yet?

Lauren Brotman brings a blend of emotional dysfunction, a perpetual hangover and a spotty memory to Rachel Watson, making her the most unreliable narrator ever to attempt to piece together a murder mystery – and succeeds.

Tyrell Crews, as Tom Watson, Rachel’s ex, manages to blend being a normal guy with something just a little beyond normal.

Stafford Perry as Scott, the husband of the missing Megan, is another familiar Vertigo face who you’re not quite sure about, while Anna Cummer’s Anna Watson stares daggers at Rachel every time the two of them share the stage.

As Meghan, Dualeah supplies plenty of je ne sais quoi, while Mike Tan has a dark turn as an arrogant therapist who may or may not know more than he’s letting on.

Vertigo artistic director Jack Grinhaus displays a deft touch with playwrights Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel’s crisply-written adaptation of the bestselling novel, with an assist from Hanne Loosen’s well-designed set and the usual excellent video projections from designer Brendan Briceland.

At a time when theatre companies around the world are having a hard time getting bums back in their seats, The Girl on the Train is one stage supermarket thriller worth checking out.

The Girl on the Train runs through April 14. For more info, go here.

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