Peggy Sue Dunigan

The God Committee

By - Nov 4th, 2008 02:52 pm
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By Peggy Sue Dunigan

What is a day of life worth? This question becomes the focus for Acacia Theatre Company’s opening production, The God Committee. The ninety-minute, no-intermission script by Mark St. Germain tackles complex ethical and moral questions regarding organ transplant– specifically heart transplants– together with a host of underlying health care issues critical in today’s society.

The seven member cast consists of four doctors, a nurse, social worker, and a priest whose challenge becomes deciding who will receive the next heart, arriving by helicopter in one hour, and classifying patients for their priority status on the heart donor list. However, plans go awry, traffic impedes the heart’s arrival, and another decision must be made. During all the committee’s discussions, the politics, costs and criteria for determining these life and death events consumes center stage.

The priest, Father Dunbar, states the case that if the committee “makes these decisions on anything that can’t be quantified you’re playing God.” With 91,000 people on the list for heart transplants and only 11,000 a year becoming available, qualifying for and topping the donor list requires patience, dedication, fortitude, and a little luck. Many patients die while waiting for a donated organ that can be implanted.

The Acacia cast carries this subject material with appropriate intensity and without melodrama, a nod to director Glenna Gustin. Even Douglas Smedbron’s Father Dunbar delivered his quirky humor with skill. Brenda L. LaMalfa’s Dr. Ross added a fine touch to the difficult role of a mother who lost her only child to suicide. While the entire cast displayed competent acting, the loud Irish music played during the performance distracted from the play’s purpose. The script is strong enough to stand alone, and ought to have been allowed to do so.

But the crucial issues of organ donation and health care resonate throughout the production, and will become even more vital in the future when the impact of dwindling medical personnel and monetary resources is fully felt. Additionally, the measures that surround end of life controversies are becoming increasingly debated. These fascinating questions dealt with in The God Committee provide an plenty of fodder for conversation afterwards. This includes one about placing the orange dot on a personal driver’s license, the symbol that an individual is willing to be an organ or tissue donor, giving the gift of life to another person should they lose theirs. What is a day of life truly worth? VS

Acacia Theatre Company presents The God Committee at Concordia University in the Todd Wehr Auditorium through November 9. For tickets: 414.744.5995.

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