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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Clever and Moving Production of Morbidity & Mortality

Also see Richard's reviews of The Rivals and Desire Under the Elms

Morbidity & Mortality
Sasha Eden
The Magic Theatre's Hot House 06 series included as part of their three full-length world premiere productions, Courtney Baron's Morbidity & Mortality. This ran with Nero:Another Golden Rome and The Ice-Breaker. All three ran in rotating repertory through April 9th.

Morbidity & Mortality deals with a young mother's grief over the death of her newborn child. The 75-minute solid drama takes the audience through Carolyn (Sasha Eden) and Michael Goldenhersch's (Jonathan Leveck) first month of grieving. Involved in this drama is Anil Petal (Hari Dhillon), a young doctor in training who operated on the couple's premature baby. Courtney Baron's writing is intelligent, contemporary, surprisingly humorous and very touching. This is not soap opera dialogue.

Courtney Baron's loaded modest drama is a portrait of one woman's profound loss and her obsession with the doctor whose mistake irreversibly changed her life. Set in a sparse theatrical landscape, the text focuses on the relationship of these three convincing and flawed characters.

The play's title refers to standard medical sessions in which doctors discuss causes of death in order to learn from any problems or errors on the part of the operating doctor. This was Dr. Petal's first heart operation and Carolyn is trying to find closure through a relationship with the doctor. She hopes to find some answers for her throbbing sense of loss. There are wonderful intercuts of dialogue to the audience and a side-by-side view of the past and present in the lives of these three persons.

The three actors give tour de force acting on the minimalist set that has just three folding chairs. Sasha Eden (New York Rats, Bus Riley's Back in Town, SCAB plus many TV appearances) is superb in the role of the grieving mother. She portrays the woman without making her a soap opera character. However, one wonders why she never expresses a poignant response regarding the death of her infant. The audience also wonders why she has such an attachment to the doctor who might have caused the death of the son.

Jonathan Leveck (leading member of two of Washington D.C's most award-winning companies) portrays the husband who is intelligent in the way of words since he is a copywriter. He has a wonderful juvenile charisma and is besotted with his wife. Hari Dhillon (recently seen in Cradle to the Grave and many other film roles) gives a wonderful performance as the doctor who was raised as a Hindu but is now an atheist and has little bedside manner.

Director Lorette Greco keeps the action moving, swiftly interjecting past and present with a smooth transition. The nonlinear format works fine here. Melpomene Katakalos' staging is bare, with a gray on black stage and Russell Champa's expressive lights on a long strip of fabric on the rear wall to indicate a hospital, restaurant or an apartment by displaying certain colors. Alex Jaeger's costumes are excellent street clothes that one would see in Manhattan.

Morbidity & Mortality along with the other two world premieres closed on April 9th.

The Magic Theatre's next presentation is the west coast premiere of Paul Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home, opening on May 13 and running through June 11 at the Northside Theatre. Landmark Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.


Bill Faulkner


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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