Kill Me Now: A Play About Courage and Love

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Brad Fraser, A Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) Production coproduced with the NAC English Theatre.

Disability comes in many guises. And each of the character’s in playwright Brad Fraser’s latest play, Kill Me Now, is disabled to a greater of lesser degree, whether through physical or mental challenges or emotional and relationship issues.

But, says Fraser in the program notes, “this is not a play about disability. It is a play about courage and love.”

So it is. At the centre is the love between father and son. In the next circle of love is that of a sister for the older brother who raised her and an aunt’s caring for her nephew. Then the love ripples out to include friends and lovers.

But the glue that binds and limits is caring for a boy with severe cerebral palsy. Perhaps this is why Sarah Garton Stanley, the director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre/NAC English Theatre production, insisted that an actor with a similar disability play the key role of Joey and that he should maximize any speech impediment and minimize physical coordination.

I disagree with the concept. It is not necessary for a one-legged man to play Long John Silver in a dramatization of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or a blind woman to play Susy Hendrix in Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark. Competent acting and the right costuming will deal with these issues.

This is not to say that the performance of Myles A. Taylor, who plays the wheelchair-bound Joey, is any less than excellent. He does a fine job of portraying both his frustration with his disability and his love for his father. However, as played, he is extremely difficult to understand. Yes, another character does complain about this and is told that she will understand Joey in time, but the audience does not have the time to grow accustomed to the speech patterns. This is a pity, because no part of the dialogue of the wrenching content, spiced with very funny comments, should be missed.

Headed by Cory Wojcik as Jake, Joey’s father, the cast is universally effective and well contrasted. As Rowdy, Braiden Houle clearly demonstrates the lack of social filter for someone with fetal alcohol syndrome and adds a welcome breeziness to his portrayal of Joey’s pal and interim caregiver. Meanwhile, completing the cohesive ensemble, Andrea del Campo as Jake’s sister, Twyla, and Sharon Bajer as his lover, Robyn, deliver mirroring facets of suffering and loneliness.

There are some minor irritations, such as the opening and closing of the refrigerator to distract the audience during scene changes and the number of very short scenes that threaten to break the mood. But, these are minor items given the force of the theme, as it demands consideration of difficult issues.

As with most (make that all) Fraser’s plays, Kill Me Now ventures into previously taboo territory. As such, it is not a play that will appeal to all, but it is a work that forces us to think about difficult issues and to walk in another’s shoes for the length of the play.

Kill Me Now continues at the NAC studio to May 6.

Director: Sarah Garton Stanley

Set and costumes: Amy Keith

Lighting: Hugh conacher

Sound: Chris Coyne

Cast:

Robyn Dartona……………………………………………Sharon Bajer

Twyla……………………………………………………..Andrea del Campo

Riwdy Akers………………………………………………Braiden Houle

Joey Sturdy………………………………………………..Myles A. Taylor

Jake Sturdy………………………………………………..Cory Wojcik


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