Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Rep Studio's Season Stacks Up Edgy `a Question of Mercy' Is the Opener

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Rep Studio's Season Stacks Up Edgy `a Question of Mercy' Is the Opener

Article excerpt

THE timing is perfect, Steven Woolf acknowledges. The Supreme Court has just ruled that terminally ill people have no constitutional right to a doctor's help in committing suicide.

The issue promises to stick around for a long time, though, because the ruling didn't end the debate; it sent it back to the states. And of course, it has been with us for a while: It comes up every time Dr. Jack Kevorkian is connected with another assisted suicide, and at every bedside where anguished patients and their loved ones try to resolve their tangled choices.

It is a very timely subject, "the stuff of headlines," said Woolf, artistic director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. It is also the subject of the first production in the 1997-98 at the Rep's Studio Theatre, "A Question of Mercy," by David Rabe.

The drama, based on a true story, concerns a doctor's ethical struggle when he is asked to help a man with AIDS commit suicide. When the play opened last February in New York, Variety critic Robert L. Daniels described it as a work of "unsettling candor and disturbing insight"; Ben Brantley, in The New York Times, called it "a complex, articulate moral inquiry that refuses to take sides."

Woolf, who will direct "A Question of Mercy" in the Studio, said that he too had a powerful reaction to Rabe's script. That, he said, was why he decided to present the play, not its news value.

That doesn't hurt, he said, but he was not even aware of the Supreme Court case when he decided to produce the show. "It is gripping, and the issues it presents are really complex," he said. "I just went nuts for it."

"A Question of Mercy" will be presented at the Studio - the small theater downstairs at The Rep and a venue for edgier shows than are usually performed on the Mainstage - from Oct. 29 to Nov. 16.

After that, the Studio season will continue with "Old Wicked Songs" by Jon Marans. The drama, which ran in New York for almost two years, concerns a young American pianist who has gone to Vienna to study with a professor who, he hopes, will reawaken his inexplicably dormant passion for music. …

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