Thursday, March 04, 2010

Prescription Strength Theater

"Can you believe the nerve of this guy?" says Susan, talking (to the employee she has just fired) about her "absurdly long" (read: one hour) wait for the doctor. The good and bad of Prescription Strength Theater, a double-bill of short plays from 3Graces Theater, is that we can believe the nerve. We can laugh about it, too, but Sharyn Rothstein nor Patrick Link are too comfortable to properly take on healthcare: they mock it, but they don't rage about it. However, though the shows are just enjoyably straightforward, they're happily far from being anemic.

So, back to Susan (Chelsea Silverman), the hero-by-default of Rothstein's play, Susan's Medical Blog. Dr. Jim Darvish (Sean Modica) has finally arrived, and he's a tongue-depressor-in-cheek sort of guy: "I'm a doctor, we don't really do sorrow." He's not such a bad guy; he's just riled up by his premiums ("I could've been a valve in the anus guy, they're raking it in now!"). And after dealing with Susan, he's all the more on edge: despite (or perhaps because of) being in charge of a major pharmaceutical company's advertising, she uses the Internet to self-diagnose her symptoms, blogging in that self-centeredly selfless way, about the whole thing. However, what at first appears to be a fed-up doctor's revenge--he makes up a life-threatening ailment for her--is taken so seriously by Rothstein that it becomes fact, with Susan's eager, sex-selling assistant Lucy (Julie Leedes) showing up to help convince her to be a guinea pig. ("It's new, it's very expensive, we're not entirely sure what it does.") The dialogue bounces too-smoothly along, and as satire goes, it lacks bite.

Link's The Benefits of Elsewhere, on the other hand, has the benefit of being a more straightforward drama. It's less witty, but it also comes across as less forced, and though it's filled with the jaded proselytizing of Linda (Suzanne Barbetta), an ex-nurse-turned-ex-health-insurance-claims-adjuster, Link's remains on-topic as he asserts that "Life is not about benefits"--it's about life. Abigail Zealey Bess's staging enforces this from the get-go, with Gwen (Georgia Southern), wedged between the desks of her manager, Bev (Kelli Lynn Harrison), and Linda, who she is replacing. "There's death and taxes," as one puts it, "and between that, there's us," and it works well to show these middle-men, these corporate vultures, roosting in their tiny office. At the same time, Ms. Harrison gives a very fair portrayal of Bev--though she's callously dispensing life and death in those little folders of hers, she's at worst a "9 to 5" villain, and more representative of American culture than we'd like to admit.

This may be Prescription Strength Theater, but what these two placid plays really teach us about theater and health care, it's that more aggressive treatments are called for. Next time, bring on the electric shocks.

1 comment:

監控 said...