At the Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor St. W, Toronto, Ont.
Written and directed by Kat Sandler
Set by Claire Hill
Costumes by Holly Lloyd
Lighting by Melissa Joakim
Sound by Andy Trithardt
Starring: Claire Armstrong
This is liver like your mother never imagined.
The Story. Glen, who is almost a doctor, and Lacey, a free-spirited young woman, come rushing into an operating room for some privacy and a quick examination of each other’s private parts. They are not alone. A corpse is on a gurney under a heavy plastic wrap. Lacey is intrigued. Glen explains the corpse, named Andrew when he was alive, was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver. He was then operated on in which his liver was removed so that the medical class could examine it. Glen was part of the class under Dr. Halik’s instruction that removed the liver for examination. Lacey is intrigued even more. She looks under the plastic covering. Glen gets a bit nervous at the liberties she is taking.
To Lacey there is something odd about the corpse. She kisses him. He’s warm which is impossible since he’s dead. To make sure he’s dead she stabs him in the chest with her pen. The corpse springs to life with a yelp. The resurrection of Andrew.
We now have a man, very much alive, but without his liver, and he wants a drink, and it’s not water. He wants a drink now and he also wants to know when he will get another liver. And he wants someone to call Dana, his girlfriend. The person who arrives is Rachel, Andrew’s ex-wife. Her name was listed as the next of kin on the form. Let the moral, ethical and medical dilemmas begin.
The Production. Claire Hill has designed a stark white operating room with a few props. The lighting by Melissa Joakim is glaring bright. Kat Sandler also directs her whiz-bang play so that it goes like the wind. The sense of urgency envelopes the play as actors creates characters who listen hard, talk fast and think faster. It leaves you breathless and rightfully so. Liver is both thought provoking and hilarious. Sandler is off-the-wall-funny.
I usually believe it’s not a good thing if the playwright directs his/her own work: who will tell the writer to cut or the director to rein it in? That’s not a problem in Liver. Kat Sandler has such a keen sense of what she wants to say and how to say it that, except for a few cases when some cutting and tweaking are in order, the play conveys the playwright’s intention with economy and efficiency.
The cast has Sandler’s humour in their finger tips. No serious moment expressed in Sandler’s typical humour is squandered. As Andrew, Shaun Benson is that kind of charming bounder who gets away with outrageous behaviour. Andrew gets his life back and now he wants to celebrate with a drink, and ideally, a new liver. Benson has a wonderful arrogance and sense of entitlement and yet we are won over by him.
As Lacey, Katelyn McCulloch has the fearlessness of youth; ready to try anything, no matter how forbidden. With a curiosity, impishness, and daring, brings along anyone in her path, and that means the hapless Glen. Michael Musi plays Glen with a kind of up-tight reticence. Breaking rules scares him, but he leans to forget that while keeping company with Lacey. No funny moment is missed with these two—the whole cast really.
As Rachel, the dumped wife, Claire Armstrong is strong, resigned in having to clean up the mess of her ex, skittish, and in her own way in control. And I’ve never seen anyone eat potato chips with such delicacy. Hilarious.
And finally Sean Sullivan plays Halik, the doctor who is desperate to make a mark in the medical world that he would quietly take advantage of a sad situation with a patient’s health. He gets his come-uppance and even that’s funny in a sobering way.
Comment. Sobering and funny—that is how I describe many of Kat Sandler’s plays, and especially Liver. She writes about responsibility, medical ethics, moral responsibility and who is deserving. Do you give Andrew another liver if he’s an unapologetic alcoholic? Do you take advantage of that weakness for your own medical ambition, as Halik does? Sandler continues to go from strength to strength in her writing especially and her direction is dandy too. Liver gives you something delicious to chew on.
The Slab Collective Presents:
Run: April 30-May 10, 2015
Cast: 5: 3 men, 2 women
Running Time: 90 minutes.