Theatre review: Pitch-perfect Kill Me Now takes a harrowing emotional journey into taboo territory

Luisa Jojic and Bob Frazer in Kill Me Now.


Kill Me Now

When: To Oct. 27

Where: Firehall Arts Centre

Tickets and Info: $17-$33 at

What perfect timing that Brad Fraser’s Kill Me Now got its Vancouver premiere the day that Canada legalized marijuana. As one long-standing taboo falls, others with which our society is still struggling to come to terms get explored in a heartfelt, pitch-perfect production of a play that pulls none of its powerful punches.

Fraser has long been one of the bad boys of Canadian theatre, an outspoken queer playwright mixing sex, violence and outrageous humour in works like Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, Poor Super Man and True Love Lies

Sex and humour remain important parts of the texture of Kill Me Now, but its centre is an emotionally harrowing story of love and family that dares you not to cry. Roy Surette’s Touchstone Theatre production features some of the best acting you’ll ever see in theatrical scenarios that most of us have probably never seen.

Widowed father Jake (Bob Frazer) is raising his disabled 17-year-old son Joey (Adam Grant Warren). With severely limited physical dexterity and slurred speech, Joey needs a lot of assistance. Jake bathes him, puts cream on his sore bum and lifts him in and out of his wheelchair. Jake’s sister Twyla (Luisa Jojic) helps. She gets Joey an iPad that gives him some personal power.

But with puberty, Joey also has sexual needs and a growing desire for independence, fuelled by his blunt, very funny, slightly older friend Rowdy (Braiden Houle). Rowdy’s fetal alcohol syndrome doesn’t slow him down at all. He presents himself to a potential sexual partner this way: “Mildly retarded and well-hung — not many can resist.”

For a while, it looks like the most controversial issue will be Joey’s awkwardly timed erections and whether his father should help masturbate him. But when Jake himself gets seriously sick, life and death come into play. Notions of ability and disability begin to shift as this ad hoc family, including Jake’s married lover Robyn (Corina Akeson), rallies around him.

Fraser handles the ethical issues, including the vexed question of assisted suicide, with sensitivity and complexity, and Surette’s cast invests his characters with a deeply human realism.

Joey is in most ways a typical hormone-driven teenager. Warren, an actor who lives with cerebral palsy, makes both Joey’s physical disability and his emotional and psychological normality utterly convincing. He and Frazer have exquisite onstage chemistry, shown in the tension and loving tenderness between son and father.

Frazer’s performance is simply devastating. The protective father whose son’s needs consume his life gradually morphs into a creature overwhelmed by his own unremitting physical pain.

Houle does a great job maintaining Rowdy’s comic role while showing his character’s growth into a pillar of strength for those around him whose needs far outweigh his. Jojic nicely balances Twyla’s own emotional stresses with her commitment to helping Joey and Jake. Akeson carefully navigates Robyn’s awkward injection of herself as outsider into her lover’s traumatized household.

The central section of David Roberts’ set aptly reflects the key theme as the actors themselves rotate it to change locations. These characters learn the hard way that they can and must take charge of their own lives. It’s a lesson beautifully, painfully, compassionately illustrated in this marvellous play.

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