As the Affordable Care Act is being reassessed by a new Congress and administration, Michael Milligan is bringing his unblinking and very personal look at health care to the stage at East Tennessee State University.

Milligan’s one-man show “Mercy Killers” will be in the spotlight on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. in ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium as the 2017 program for the annual An Evening of Health Wellness & the Arts – co-sponsored by the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and College of Public Health. A catered reception will follow the free one-act performance, and work by Quillen College of Medicine students, sponsored by the Gold Humanism Honor Society, will be on display in the Alumni Gallery before and after the show.

“Mercy Killers” depicts the plight of a blue-collar mechanic, Joe, whose wife has cancer, and their life-and-death struggle with the American health care system.

“We hear people debating health care reform all the time but we rarely look at what it means to an ordinary citizen,” says Mark Plesent, artistic director of Working Theater, New York City, where “Mercy Killers” was produced in 2014.

The one-man show is written and performed by Milligan, a graduate of The Juilliard School, who has appeared on and off Broadway and in regional theaters throughout the country and in Shakespearean productions the world-round. Milligan portrays Joe, a body shop owner and Tea Party proponent, who finds his beliefs shaken when his wife’s breast cancer treatments and hospital bills lead them into divorce and bankruptcy, despite the fact that they have insurance.

A staunch believer in the American way of life, Joe prizes hard work, self-reliance and personal liberty. He is deeply in love with his wife and even enjoys their “nuclear” arguments on the dangers of too much Rush Limbaugh and not enough organic foods. Everything changes when she is diagnosed with cancer.

Dubbed a “deeply affecting love story,” “Mercy Killers” is an emotional journey of a man who fights for his wife’s life using every resource, personal and otherwise, he can muster.

“No one should ever be in the situation that these people in the play find themselves in … where they lose their health insurance and are forced to scrap their lives and their quality of living in order to survive,” says J. Steven White, supervising producer at the Harold Clurman Lab Theater in Los Angeles.

Reviewers from Edinburgh to the Twin Cities have called the show “raw, emotional and devastatingly honest,” “beautiful and heartbreaking” and “one-man theatre at its very best.”

For more information on Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit or call 423-439-8587.