Arena Stage The Quality of LifeBy Mark Lee Adams • Sep 24th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Arena Stage in Crystal City, Arlington, VA
Through October 18th
2:00, with one intermission
Reviewed September 20th, 2009
Arena Stage has brought Jane Anderson’s The Quality of Life to what appears to be an unfinished production. Now, of course with four exceptional actors giving of their talents to this script, the play had a true heartbeat, but the end of the play just didn’t hold me. I felt myself questioning the ending.
The play brings together two related married couples faced with tragedies. They are brought together as each couple is learning to deal with the horrors life can dole out to them. Each character in this play has to deal with internal fear, grief and anger both openly and to their spouses.
It was a pleasure watching this cast work together. The wife and husband relationships they built were clear and believable. I found myself growing fond of them and wanting them all to conquer fears, overcome their grief and control their anger. The script, however didn’t allow them to do so. Either by intent or not, I was left feeling let down.
The horrors of life these couples are faced with are many: Dinah and Bill (Annette O’Toole and Kevin O’Rourke) are dealing with the grief and anger of losing their daughter at the hands of another. The home of Jeannette and Neil (Johanna Day and Stephen Schnetzer) has been leveled by a California fire. They’re dealing with Neil’s terminal cancer and what they’re going to do now. The decision of euthanasia and suicide sends the couples at understandable odds.
Many questions are posed in this play: What happens to true love when one dies? How can the one left behind live on? Is this part of life fare? Is it possible to be a loving couple after your only child is murdered? Was their love for each other ever going to show signs of life? How do your religious beliefs deal with euthanasia? Is medical marijuana good or bad? Oh yes, how about suicide?
The issues are spelled out very nicely and the elements are all there for the answering, but this play seemed to tag some of the questions, and leaves the rest unanswered or wisked away for the audience to ponder. And maybe that was Jane Anderson’s intent, but it didn’t work.
I loved the acting! Johanna Day and Stephen Schnetzer were fabulous as the loving couple. Annette O’Toole was so real as the mother laden with the burden of her murdered child, it moved me. She also had some wonderful transitional moments of growth as she became more enlightened about taboos of her grief. Kevin O’Rourke playing Annette’s husband has some wonderful and touching moments as he discovers he has to deal with the possibilities of a life without his mate.
The set of the burned remains of a home was wonderful, as were the lighting, sound and costumes. The play just left me feeling empty and bereft of answers.
Photos by Scott Suchman for Arena Stage.
- Dinah: Annette O’Toole
- Bill: Kevin O’Rourke
- Jeannette: Johanna Day
- Neil: Stephen Schnetzer
- Playwright: Jane Anderson
- Director: Lisa Peterson
- Set Designer: Neil Patel
- Costume Designer: Ilona Somogyi
- Lighting Designer: Alexander V. Nichols
- Sound Designer & Composer: John Gromada
- Fight Choreographer: David S. Leong
- Stage Manager: Susan R. White
- Asst. Stage Manager: Amber Dickerson
- Asst. Stage Manager: Kurt Hall
- Production Dramaturg: Janine Sobeck
- N.Y. Casting Director: David Caparelliotis
- Casting Director: Daniel Pruksarnukul
- Production Manager: Carey Lawless
- Associate Artistic Director: David Dower
- Technical Director: Jim Glendinning
- Property Master: Chuck Fox
- Master electrician: Christopher V. Lewton
- Master Sound Technician: Timothy J. Thompson
- Costume Director: Joseph P. Salasovich
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Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.