Kill Me Now
When: Oct. 13-27
Where: Firehall Arts Centre
Tickets and info: from $30 at tickets.firehallartscentre.ca
From its opening scene, Kill Me Now will have audience members asking, “What would I do in that situation?”
“Absolutely, one hundred per cent,” said Bob Frazer, the actor who plays Jake, a single dad with a severely disabled son.
“There are a few moments in the play when the conversation comes up. Even I, when I read the play, “Was like, ‘Oh my God. What do you do in that situation?’ I couldn’t come up with the right answer.”
Not only does Jake’s son Joey have a physical disability, but he’s also going through puberty — a condition that raises concerns (and eyebrows) from the start.
Written by Canadian playwright Brad Fraser, Kill Me Now premiered in Edmonton in 2013. The play was nominated for Outstanding New Play at the 2014 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards and was a finalist for the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. It has been produced in New York City, London, Winnipeg, and Ottawa; the Touchstone Theatre production marks the play’s B.C. premiere.
Touchstone has produced other work by Fraser, including The Wolf Boy in 1982, Unidentified Human Remains & the True Nature of Love (which became the movie Identified Remains in 1993) in 1991, and True Love Lies (2011).
Touchstone Artistic Director Roy Surette is directing.
“He has this gentle way of guiding the play in a really great direction,” Frazer said.
“The thing about Roy too is that he’s done this for many years, he’s probably directed hundreds of plays, he’s seen thousands of plays. And yet every time in this play he’s visibly moved at the end. He’s invested emotionally. He gets sucked into it.”
The play doesn’t specify the exact nature of Joey’s disability, except for a line of dialogue about how “having extra chromosomes used to give you super-powers,” Frazer said. The emotional stakes are raised when Frazer’s character Jake becomes ill, and he has to rely on a dysfunctional support system.
Jake’s support system includes his sister Twyla (Luisa Jojic), his (married) lover Robyn (Corina Akeson), and Joey’s buddy Rowdy (Braiden Houle).
Frazer has worked with everyone in the cast before, with the exception of Adam Grant Warren. Warren, who has cerebral palsy, plays Joey.
“We’re probably the most dysfunctional family there is, onstage,” Frazer said. “Offstage it’s an amazing support group.”
Frazer hopes that Kill Me Now, which touches not only on disability but also adultery, prostitution and euthanasia, will prompt discussions among playgoers. (Playwright Brad Fraser will be in town for a discussion with Postmedia’s theatre critic Jerry Wasserman Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at The Post at 750 Hamilton St.)
“The idea that the show will raise any kind of conversation around the issues it presents is exciting,” said Frazer.
“How do we care for people, how do we treat people with disabilities? Should we be surprised if things we would find odd, would be things that help them grow, or live? As an able-bodied person, if someone coddled or babied me as the father does to the son in this play, I would resist that. But in the show, it’s kind of expected. It’s not necessarily a good thing, it’s just what it is. We can’t judge.”
The play finds humour in the darkness. “It deals with sensitive issues, but it’s still a Brad Fraser play,” said Frazer. “He’s shocking and darkly funny, and the play is darkly funny as well. There are some lines that, regardless if they’re said 10 times in rehearsal, everyone still laughs quite hard at.”