More musings on death at Trinity Rep

Alone together
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  March 27, 2012

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG Brazil and Hantman talk it over.

Death can be easiest for the dead themselves, who don't have to deal with the emotional aftermath, after all. It's the loved ones left behind whom we feel sorriest for in Deborah Salem Smith's Love Alone, part of "Three by Three in Rep," the trio of world premieres at Trinity Repertory Company (through May 27). It's directed by Tyler Dobrowsky and Salem Smith, resident playwright at the theater.

What should be routine minor surgery on a healthy patient goes terribly wrong, and we look in on the consequences with the daughter and partner of the deceased as well as one of the doctors conducting the operation.

Since daughter Clementine (Leah Anderson) was told that "the surgery went well" for her mother, she relaxed and went home after the operation. So it's up to the deceased's partner Helen (Anne Scurria) to deal with the bad news. She is informed of the death in a manner that attempts to be sensitive but comes across as pro forma, bureaucratic. A hospital official (Janice Duclos), with a soothing voice and infuriatingly calm demeanor, announces the unfortunate occurrence and attempts to give Helen a "bereavement package."

The first explanation is: "Her heart, it didn't come back," as though the organ itself were at fault for losing interest. The correction — "She didn't come back" — is hardly an improvement, an image of the late patient wandering off. As far as we can tell, there is no correct way to put it. There seems to be something fundamentally off, unreal, about such news.

We also get to know Dr. Becca Neal (Angela Brazil), the anesthesiologist for the operation, who had started work only three weeks before. While she feels confident that she did everything by the book — she was at the top of her class at a prestigious medical school a few years earlier, after all — a patient dying is not something easily shrugged off. Encouraging her to do just that is husband J.P. (Mauro Hantman), apparently just the sort of caring, patient spouse every doctor needs to be equipped with, considering their pressures and woeful hours. At first, their only significant issue seems to be her not finding the mental space to consider having children.

She "had a bad outcome," is how she puts it to him about her bad day. "Everything went wrong — for no reason" is her empty explanation. When we learn that she sneaks cigarettes outside the hospital with a nurse confidant (Duclos), despite having insisted to her husband that she quit long ago, we wonder whether we are learning of a deeper character flaw.

Back at the home of the dead patient, there is conflict. As a lesbian partner, Helen cannot even get the medical report, much less initiate a lawsuit. The surgeon for the operation, a never-seen Dr. Hendrix, is well-liked around the hospital, but public records reveal that he has had an inordinate number of malpractice suits levied against him. We eventually learn how common this is — one out of seven doctors each year is slapped with such suits — which drag on for an average of nine years.

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  Topics: Theater , Janice Duclos, Mauro Hantman, Angela Brazil,  More more >
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