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With Seán Martinfield

Seán Martinfield

MAGIC THEATRE lays an egg!
"Morbidity & Mortality" is premature

By Seán Martinfield

March 12, 2006

MORBIDITY & MORTALITY, the second offering in the Magic Theatre's "Hot House'06" series is simply too contrived. A sort-of middle class east coast / sort-of-Jewish straight couple get all tangled up with a self-proclaimed atheist Indian American single and straight guy of the Connecticut-Hindu variety. The couple's baby is born a month premature and with a defective heart valve. Said atheist is the doctor performing the operation on the baby's walnut-sized heart; this being his first, ever, but not to worry because a more-experienced physician is standing right beside him supervising his every move. Operation fails, baby dies. Said parents, not ever having chosen the boy-or-girl name prior to its birth, decide the Death Certificate must simply read, "Baby".

Scene One? Carolyn, the baby's mother, looks at the audience, giggles, and confesses: "I have sexual fantasies-true-and-I-ha!-I masturbate to the thought of having sex with the doctor who killed my baby."

Whoa! Stage lights came up less than a minute ago. Didn't the House Manager just get through telling us the production is only an hour and fifteen minutes in length and has no intermission? How bad would it look if I left now?

Then, straight to the jaw, Carolyn and Michael jokingly reveal to us (as in the old nursery rhyme, "Jack Sprat could eat not fat, his wife could eat no lean….") that, during the pregnancy, she can't eat eggs and Michael - "I can't eat sperm."

Yike. Obvious set-ups / really-bad punch-lines.
No Act 2? Thank you.

According to a short essay in the playbill, "Ritual and the Expression of Grief", written by Assistant Director Erin Gilley and the play's author, Courtney Baron, the work focuses on the first month of the couple's grieving process. We are given brief and generalized descriptions of sacred practices and ritual progressions specific to Jewish and Hindu traditions, i.e., when it comes to dispatching the Dead. We are also alerted (some of us reminded) about standard conferences occurring in modern hospitals wherein the medical staff reviews and discusses problems encountered, specifically when the patient dies - those being, the "Morbidity and Mortality" meetings. With just a quick sweep of the audience, my guess is most of us are already clued-into much of the above and have been there / done that (with someone/anyone) by now and/or have simply watched the 6 o'clock News once in a while since 9/11. Lots of death freely on view, lots of religious messaging from every direction the ear can hear, lots of state funerals, lots of natural and man-made disasters, and lots of testimony about how to deal and heal through a Mardi gras.

As the play progresses, we discover the couple and this luck-of-the-draw doctor have a sum total of NADA when it comes to an acquaintance with at least 2 out of 3 from any combination of the above; all family members, alleged friends and possible mentors being likewise clueless. Hence, the Drama.

Come the last moments, Carolyn ventures into the audience, sits next to an innocent ticket-holder and poses the question, "What do we learn?" Really want to know?

Three exceptionally talented and attractive actors are on the stage at The Magic Theatre - Sasha Eden (Carolyn), Jonathan Leveck (Michael), and Hari Dhillon (Dr. Anil Petal). They deserve your attention.

MORBIDITIY & MORTALITY - clearly in need of incubation - does not.

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