BWW Review: A.D. Players' THE GOD COMMITTEE Asks You to Consider the Value of Human Life
Have you ever stopped to consider what a day of life is worth? Not what the meaning of life is or your personal purpose in life, but "What is a day of life worth to you?" Can the answer to this question be measured? Or answered monetarily?
It would seem that the answer would have to be unquantifiable, impossible to put a standard number, label, shape, or weight to. THE GOD COMMITTEE presents a question of 'sentiment versus science', in a world where being truly objective is impossible. Facts, data, and statistics are pit against psychology, socialization, and emotional life as seven decision-makers attempt to determine which of three patients should receive the sole heart available for transplant.
While many of us will likely never face the actual choice of who should receive the only viable heart, the meaning of this play goes beyond the sole scenario of heart surgeons and the medical field. How can we, as human beings, dictate who has the right to live more than another? What determines 'deserving' a beating heart over another individual? As one of the characters argues, if these decisions could be made solely based on factual quantitative data, then the teams of decision-makers would be replaced with computer programs and software. THE GOD COMMITTEE gives a glance into a high-pressure world where seven individuals from different backgrounds must settle on a majority decision-one that means the difference between life and death for another human being.
Mark St. Germain's THE GOD COMMITTEE runs in real-time--90 minutes with no intermission. This structure, along with a ticking clock on the wall, emphasize the urgency of the decisions being made. As arguments ensue and competing factors are discussed, the minutes on the clock continue to tick away until a conclusion is reached. This production is jam-packed with technical medical information in addition to differing character backgrounds, making the flow of information feel akin to a rollercoaster ramping up its tracks.
Germain's writing is naturalistic and meaningful within an environment that often feels sterile and cold. The inclusion of Father Dunbar (Chip Simmons) and the young Dr. Banks (Christy Watkins) grant the plot realistic conflict and objection. Though the difficult questions are being posed from character to character, Germain's script asks the audience to consider these things as well. With a cast of seven and only 90 minutes, it is remarkable how much introspection into each character the audience was granted without it feeling rushed or superficial.
Christy Watkins' character, Dr. Kiera Banks, was a representation of the audience member within the story. Innocent, not yet jaded by experience, and lacking a hardened heart, she was the one who often objected, asked questions, or further challenged her colleagues to think more deeply about the situation. Often invalidated by her lack of experience, her character's well-meaning intentions and youthful naivety were refreshing next to her more experienced colleagues.
Braden Hunt was showcased in his role of Dr. Alex Gorman, the young but ambitious (to a fault) doctor who is eager to take over the program from Dr. Jack Klee (Philip Lehl). Hunt portrays this cut-throat, decisive character with tenacity and resolve. Lehl's character stands in contrast to Hunt's, feeling calmer and more assured, with years of experience backing his decisions. Lehl's journey throughout the play gives a thoughtful reminder that though these individuals are tasked with "playing God", they are in fact still flawed human beings.
Chip Simmons brilliantly portrayed Father Charles Dunbar, a former lawyer turned Catholic priest. Referred to as the "moral watchdog" of the room, his character not only provided moral counsel, but held a great deal of importance in delivering information to the room. Simmons appears wise and steadfast, not to be shaken by the enormity or volume of the decisions being made.
Actors Kaci M. Fannin (Nella Larkin, R.N.) and Luis Galindo (Domenick Piero) gave the intense one-act play its levity, though both actors had meaningful moments sprinkled throughout the script. If you have been following Galindo's work, you will have come to expect his impeccable comedic timing and delivery, and this role is no exception. Shondra Marie played Dr. Ann Ross, a mother grieving her daughter lost to suicide. While the heavier, more emotional moments of her performance felt disconnected at times, I can't help but think it was due to the short amount of time given to explore her character.
The designs added greatly to the ambient feel, which contributed to the believability of the scenario. Liz Freese's sleek set design transformed the vast stage into an intimate setting with a picture-frame-esque portal. The set appeared almost like a diorama-a focused snapshot of the ever-evolving, fast-paced medical world. The portal, in the world of the characters, was a large window overlooking the chaotic city streets below. As noted by Dr. Jack Klee (Philip Lehl), the streets contain "countless catastrophic opportunities. It's a beautiful day." 'Catastrophic' and 'beauty' don't tend to be symbiotic, but this is the world of heart transplants--where in order to live, someone else must die. Yezminne Zepeda's sound design paired seamlessly with Freese's set, again giving the audience a full sensory experience. A collage of sirens, crashes, mechanical noises and lastly, a heartbeat, filled the house in the introductory montage of sound.
THE GOD COMMITTEE is contemplative, challenging, and intense in all of the best ways. Director Alice Gatling navigates the chaotic, quick world of this play with detail, precise timing, and thoughtfulness. The stories being told pack an emotional punch, and the script provides a wealth of insight into a world that is unfamiliar to most of us. As the characters grapple with the weight each decision holds, Germain leaves us with a significant point to ponder: "If you make choices on anything that cannot be quantified, you are playing God".
THE GOD COMMITTEE runs through June 2, with performances on May 24th-26thand May 29th-31st. Performances are at the George Theater at 5420 Westheimer Road. You can purchase tickets online at adplayers.org or call the Box Office at 713-526-2721.