On the night of Feb. 21, I sat down in the D.P. Culp University Center auditorium to watch the one-man play titled “Mercy Killers” performed by Michael Milligan.
I was expecting the play’s set up to be spectacular and very elaborate, but instead I found the scene to be very simple. On the stage was a fold out chair and a wooden table. The music playing was by folk artist Woody Guthrie.
When the play started, I soon found out the reason for the simple stage set up. The plot of the play centers around a man named Joe who has been arrested for reasons unknown to the audience. This element of suspense drew me in straight away, and it kept every member of the audience captured as he addressed everyone as if he were talking to the officer filling out his arrest form.
As the play goes on, the audience learns about Joe’s dilemma as he breaks the third wall and tells the audience, or the officer, his story. It started three and a half years ago when his wife, Jane, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Joe then recounts a handful of stories about the treatments and the high costs of his wife’s medical care. He goes into more depth and explains how the cost became more and more expensive. It came to the point where they had to sell their house and file for divorce so his wife’s income would be low enough to qualify for Medicaid.
The end of the play had me in tears with its unexpectedly sad twist. Not wanting to be a burden to her husband anymore, Jane takes a bottle of pills that contained penicillin, a drug Joe had revealed earlier in the play was something his wife was allergic to. Unable to do anything more, Joe laid by his wife’s side as she died, which is where the police and paramedics found him at the beginning of the play.
This play made me very uncomfortable, but for a very good reason and in the best way. “Mercy Killers” spoke about a difficult and often confusing subject that we all must deal with at some point: the American healthcare system. By showing what millions of people go through every day, I was forced to think about how difficult our healthcare system is and how it affects ordinary people.
The play also highlights what mercy killers actually are. They are the people who end a person’s life so they don’t have to suffer anymore. In the case of Joe, it was implied he broke his wife’s neck in the end to save her from the pain.
An audience member said that “Mercy Killers” was “very interesting and had me on the verge of tears. It really hit home for me.”
When asked what a person seeing this for the first time should walk away knowing, freshman Morgan Dishner said, “People should take a look at how this is a problem for lots of people.”
Overall, “Mercy Killers” was an eye-opening and emotional play. It depicted the everyday struggles Americans go through when dealing with the corrupted American healthcare system.