Directed by Lia Mortensen
At The Den Theatre, Chicago
Thought provoking look at death and its effects on the living
The Den Theatre, under tight direction by Lia Mortensen, have a fine production of Jane Anderson’s (2006) The Quality of Life. This though provoking drama finds two couples struggling with the effects of death – one still grieving about the death of a daughter and the other preparing for the death from cancer of the spouse.
We meet the conservative Christian couple – Bill (Steve Spenser) and Dinah (Jennifer Taylor) still grieving over the murder of their daughter a year after. Dinah gets word that her distant cousin, Jeanette (Liz Zweifler) has lost their home in a California fire and that Jeanette’s husband Neil (Ron Wells) is terminal with cancer. Bill and Dinah travel to California for a visit to the stricken couple.
They find Neil and Jeanette living in a yurt (a Mongolian round large tent) located on the scorched hillside where their home was. Neil and Jeanette are hippie types Left-Wingers: intellectuals, world travelers, agnostics, New Age proponents. Each couple has a different lifestyle and beliefs; each deals with death differently. To Bill and Dinah surprise, the California couple, now happily living , continue to celebrate life with hits of pot and a steady flow of red wine. Sympathy turns to rage, however, when deep-seeded values and uncompromising beliefs are put to the ultimate test. Ethical, religious, and moral beliefs about the right to both life and death are on full display in Anderson’s thought provoking play.
Issues about self determined euthanasia for one suffering great pain with cancer as well as a spouse willfully deciding that she can’t live without her dying spouse therefore willing to die with him is presented. Does anyone have the moral right to end one’s life to relieve pain? And can a rational spouse morally decide to join her terminal spouse despite her being in good health. Christian and agnostic beliefs collide in this powerful drama. The sanctity of life and the definition of living are vividly explored in this gripping drama.
All four performers had their moments but Liz Zweifler as Jeanette and Ron Wells as Neil were particularly effective. Playwright Anderson sure gets the issue of death and its present and past effects woven into a real life scenario that surely will be played out in aging America. This engrossing drama honestly deals with issues we all must eventually deal with- grieving of a lost loved one and the complications of our own morality. Kudos to Anderson for putting faces on the issue.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 1, 2012
For more info checkout The Quality of Life page at theatreinchicago.com
At The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL, tickets $25. Available at www.brownpapertickets.com, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through December 9, 2012