A Question of Mercy

Almost 2,500 years ago, the great Athenian philosopher, Socrates, chose to drink Hemlock in order to end his life rather than support state policies with which he disagreed. Just a few years ago, after a series of skirmishes, the state finally convicted Dr. Jack Kevorkian of assisting in suicides. Has anything been learned in this interim?

What would you do if your best friend or lover was dying a slow painful death, say of AIDS—would you help them end their life? If not, what would be the factors that would hold you back? And conversely, if your best friend or lover was dying of AIDS, what right would he have to ask you to risk imprisonment to help end his life? Should society imprison you for assisting?

While not having attracted quite the violence and attention that the abortion issue has, the debate over doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia has nevertheless attracted just as much vitriol. The web is plastered with those arguing for compassion and relief for those whose every moment if filled with pain and, conversely, those who argue that their God supports this sort of suffering.

Such are the questions raised by the Theatre Group's current production of playwright David Rabe's A Question of Mercy. Four fine performances are a testament to Director Nicholas Sugar's focused and poignant vision. Deborah Persoff as Doctor Roberta Chapman walks an edgy line between compassion for her patient and fear over the legal repercussions of her plans. Marc Berg's decimated yet deeply human portrayal of the AIDS ridden Anthony is astonishing. Richard Cook as Thomas, Anthony's life partner is a caring and compelling figure, and Trina O'Neill as Susanah, their best friend, pushes the dramatic stakes for the whole group.

Except for some obscure shadows representing the Doctor's interactions with the building doorman, the Theatre Group's production of A Question of Mercy is a near flawless statement on the human cost of a social and legal system morally confused over the place of choice in life and death. It runs through March 31st. 303-860-9360.


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