×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

At the beginning of any stage play, there is always that brief period of adjustment for the audience to become comfortable with watching the onstage performers inhabit their roles. That period never ends in this awkward, self-conscious journey through Brian Clark's oft-produced chronicle of a quadriplegic's determination to be allowed to end her life. The entire ensemble interacts as if they were barely beyond being off book.

With:
Claire Harrison - Charlene Tilton Nurse Anderson - Livia Trevino Mary Jo Sadler - Shanta Sullivan John - Jean-Michael Richaud Dr. David Scott - Charlie Duran Dr. Michael Emerson - Jerry Katz Mrs. Louise Boyle - Kathlyn Miles Margaret Hill - Lily Mercer Dr. Paul Jacobs - John Szura Peter Kershaw - TL Kolman Dr. Barr - Harlene Marshall Andrea Eden - Shelley Sinclaire Judge Wyler - RG Clayton

At the beginning of any stage play, there is always that brief period of adjustment for the audience to become comfortable with watching the onstage performers inhabit their roles. That period never ends in this awkward, self-conscious journey through Brian Clark’s oft-produced chronicle of a quadriplegic’s determination to be allowed to end her life. Charlene Tilton (“Dallas”) offers a sympathetic presence as bed-ridden sculptor Claire Harrison but never achieves a level of comfort with her lines. In fact, as directed by Steve Owsley, the entire ensemble interacts as if they were barely beyond being off book.

The difficulty in having the main onstage presence only able to move from the neck up is that the play’s thematic evolution, as well as all the complicated intellectual and emotional give-and-take, have to be shaped and finessed through verbal communication. Unless the cast members truly connect with one another on multiple levels, Clark’s vital central theme (what constitutes life and who should have the right to determine it) becomes a mundane, pedestrian exercise of deciding who wins and who loses. Unfortunately, this debut production of the Attic Theatre Ensemble’s 13th season definitely falls into the loss column.

The playwright does not offer an easy task for any ensemble. Set in the ward of a critical care medical facility, the combat over whether this patient will be allowed to determine her own fate is established early, pitting the determined Claire against her physician, the equally determined Dr. Michael Emerson (Jerry Katz). Despite Clark’s infusion of folk who either aid or oppose Claire’s decision, the resolution of the drama is never in doubt. The playwright has simply given Claire too much ammunition to be denied her resolution to not live the rest of her life as a breathing but useless cadaver.

There are two performances that do manage to instill some emotional energy to the proceedings. Charlie Duran effectively communicates the sadly romantic yearnings of young Dr. David Scott toward Claire. And Lily Mercer communicates the intelligence and wit of Claire’s attorney Margaret Hill.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Attic Theatre Center; 99 seats; $18 top

Production: An Attic Theatre Ensemble presentation of a play in two acts by Brian Clark. Directed by Steve Owsley. Reviewed Feb. 19; runs until March 25.

Creative: Sets, Christopher Sheets; costumes, Sharon Zimmer; lighting, James Carey. Opened Feb. 17, 2000. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Claire Harrison - Charlene Tilton Nurse Anderson - Livia Trevino Mary Jo Sadler - Shanta Sullivan John - Jean-Michael Richaud Dr. David Scott - Charlie Duran Dr. Michael Emerson - Jerry Katz Mrs. Louise Boyle - Kathlyn Miles Margaret Hill - Lily Mercer Dr. Paul Jacobs - John Szura Peter Kershaw - TL Kolman Dr. Barr - Harlene Marshall Andrea Eden - Shelley Sinclaire Judge Wyler - RG Clayton

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

  • Ink Play West End London

    Wary Theater Rivalry Between London and New York Gives Way to a Boom in Crossovers

    Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theater capitals have never been closer. It’s not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations — believed to be the most ever — with three more expected in the [...]

  • Alex Brightman Beetlejuice Broadway

    How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

    Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs [...]

  • Santino Fontana Tootsie Broadway Illustration

    'Tootsie' Star Santino Fontana on the Challenges of His Tony-Nominated Dual Role

    Santino Fontana is doing double duty on Broadway this year. The “Tootsie” star scored his second Tony Award nomination this month for his hilarious portrayal of struggling actor Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels, the female persona that Dorsey assumes to win a role in a play. The musical, based on the 1982 comedy starring Dustin [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content