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Elizabeth Mitchell

Mercy kills. Or does it? In his latest work, The Last Supper, playwright and director Hillar Liitoja has taken the controversial subject of euthanasia and created an elegant testament to choosing to die with dignity.

By setting the play in a time when euthanasia is an accepted practice, Liitoja escapes dealing with ethical questions and instead invites the audience to participate in a “performance of euthanasia.”

Incapacitated by his illness, Chris (Ken McDougall) has decided to die. His lover Val (Jim Allodi) and Dr. Parthens (Sky Gilbert) are at his side to tend to his final requests and assist in his dying. The dynamics created between these three actors as they pull the audience into their tight circle are a rare treat. The unnatural dialogue is jarring at times, but astute: how can conversation come naturally when all the participants would rather be somewhere else?

As the consummate caregiver, Jim Allodi’s performance is exceptional as he busies himself with domestic chores and feigns enthusiasm while preparing for his last supper with his beloved. McDougall’s Chris is barely audible, making all present – including the audience – strain to hear him, hoping to grasp everything he utters without disturbing the moment. Sky Gilbert’s Dr. Parthens is suitably awkward and completely endearing.

The Backspace has been transformed into a bedroom, with the audience seated around a huge bed on various chairs and cushions. It’s uncomfortable at times, but that’s exactly what’s intended. From the soft lighting to the plastic under the fitted sheet, much attention to detail has helped to create the claustrophobic atmosphere of impending death. At two-and-a-half hours, the performance is short compared with Liitoja’s four-hour poetry epic Poundemonium last spring

Unpretentious and compelling, The Last Supper transcends melodrama, and stays with you well after you’ve left the theatre. As such, it’s fitting that in English, Theatre Passe Muraille translates to “theatre beyond walls.”

EYE weekly
October 21, 1993