By Don DeLillo
Directed by Alice Bishop
With Olivia Connolly, Tim Potter, Christine Maloney & Kevin Summers
Set by Peter Mumford
Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis
Sound by Mike Crozier and Clifton MacLeod
Stage Manager Isobel Ferns
Love Lies Bleeding (July 16 – August 16, 2008)
Travis de Jonk, SameSame.com.au (05/08/08)
Love Lies Bleeding, by New York writer Don DeLillo, tells the story of an artist who becomes an invalid after a stroke. His wife’s tiresome daily routine of looking after him is suddenly broken by the surprise arrival of one of his ex-wives and his estranged son. The reason for their ‘out of the blue’ visit soon becomes clear – they want the current wife’s consent to commit an ‘act of mercy’ to end the artist’s life.
What becomes apparent is that everyone has their own agenda in their decision to either end his life or prolong it, which has little to do with the artist’s best interests. Instead of overt political statements, the play deals with the issues of euthanasia through the humanity of its characters. Neither State nor God factor into these arguments. On the contrary – it’s all about the humanity and the personal – guilt, revenge, selfishness and nostalgia are what colour their decision-making.
In his play DeLillo asks us to consider what it really means to be alive. What makes a life meaningful? And should life end when that meaning is no longer there?
The play is punctuated by flashbacks to life before the stroke. We see little snippets of his interactions with the key characters. Each gives us a glimpse into who the he was and the way he thought. Yet neither the audience nor the characters ever get to find out what the artist would have wanted for himself. Would he have wanted to live in his vegetative state? Or would he have preferred to be free of his comatose body?
Love Lies Bleeding definitely has a slow and calculated pace that is fitting and respectful of the weighty issues within it. Sometimes this production felt a bit too slow, and it lost its sense of pressure and heightened anxiety. However there are some really gripping moments that will leave you breathless. There’s a brutal sequence of scenes where the ex-wife and son fondly remember the artist and talk about memories with his new wife, that are contrasted with them ganging up on her, bulling her into submission to their ‘act of mercy.’ There, the pace was perfect.
Performances from the cast are pretty good all round. The characters they create are believable, genuine and intense. In particular, the latest addition to the Red Stitch ensemble, Tim Potter, is brilliant (and at times genuinely creepy) as the son that is totally obsessed with the father who never had time for him. Christine Maloney’s character of the ex-wife is also excellent, bringing a truckload of realistic guilt, regret and anxiety to the situation.
Kevin Summers fulfills the difficult task of playing an invalid man without being patronising or a caricature of disability. He also delivers a great performance as the artist before his stroke, with a character that is full of that ‘difficult’ and ‘angsty’ artistic temperament.
However, while the American accents aren’t badly done, they do detract from the storytelling and the intensity at times, and seem unnecessary for an Australian audience.
Love Lies Bleeding is another brilliant choice by Red Stitch. It’s fresh and deep, without any obvious clichés. It’s not about which side of the fence you sit on regarding the moral dilemma, instead it explores the human realities around us, regardless of the politics. It’s about the decisions, too personal and introspective to be black or white, or easily explained.