Kill Me Now, the new Brad Fraser play (he wrote and directed it). I was supposed to go to Opening Night with a friend but I was suffering an incessant cough and really didn't want to be that person in the audience, so I was extremely fortunate when my friend Catherine asked me to go on Friday.
The play, like most of the Brad Fraser plays I am familiar with, is one that addresses a hard-to-deal-with topic, or two. This play deals with the challenge of caring for a child who has severe health issues that require a great deal of care, and the challenges that occur with that child maturing into an adult with physical (sexual) needs as well as the concept of what happens when it becomes difficult to provide the level of care needed. I can't talk too much about details of the plot, because I want to avoid spoilers. What was very interesting and engaging for me was that being that I haven't had to think about the issues raised I think the play did a great job of making you think about them without pandering or lecturing. These were simply people and their faults and foibles were human and these were just the circumstances of their lives.
I was very impressed with Mathew Hulshof as Joey, the disabled teen. I thought he was marvelous in portraying so many honest teenage emotions combined with the physical restrictions of his character. Both he and the writing of the character really allowed you to see that underneath the physical limitations of the person was a real, intelligent, caring and compassionate person with a sense of humour and needs beyond those of just food and shelter and someone to help change his clothes. It's interesting, because I wondered as to the real purpose of Robyn, his father's hidden girlfriend, and then I realized she was the audience-proxy. Her interactions with Joey made us all re-evaluate how we have interacted with people of disability and hopefully how we will in the future. I also loved the character of Rowdy, played by Patrick Lundeen. Rowdy, as Joey's best friend with just a touch of FAS shows us a different kind of disabled kid who we have no doubt misjudged. He's a wonderful complement, very entertaining, but also very humanizing. I have known kids like Rowdy and it was kind of cool to see one on stage. These kind of characters don't get as much stage time as others. The ensemble as a whole works well together, painting a world where people are stretched too thin to provide care for others, and providing insight into why they might be pushed to the breaking point or other risking behaviour. There are a few moments of awkwardness and lack of connection, but I am still thinking about this reaction. In this kind of world you would expect the awkward. The set is brilliant. Horizontal bars emerge and disappear, the chairs are missing parts, and the whole world feels like a once perfect world that has decayed. It works.
This is a play that pushes you to think about things you might not think about otherwise, and that's a good thing.