Wednesday 18 May 2005

Savage Grace, May 18, 2005

Savage Grace by Alana Valentine 
Steamworks Arts Productions & La Mama
La Mama  May 18 until June 5, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The argument over euthanasia is heated, emotional and exhausting. In the hothouse environment of Alana Valentine's play, Savage Grace, the issues are personalised in an unexpected way.

The argument between the two characters in the play is about the right of a young AIDS victim to choose when he will die and the responsibility of his doctor to assist him.

We never meet the young man, Jeremy, but his case is represented by his doctor, Tex, (Gibson Nolte) a youthful American medico who is under suspicion of assisting deaths in his hospital.

Tex is compelled to attend a series of sessions with a medical ethicist, Robert Bavarro (Humphrey Bower).

The plot leads us into the murky territory of religion and faith, humanism and choice, death and hope.

Valentine's story takes some surprising turns that intensify the tangle of issues to be dealt with by these two men from such differing ethical and social perspectives.

Robert is a cool debater, a philosopher who tries to remain detached and professional in his sessions with Tex but who finds himself being antagonised and baited by the hostile young doctor who is on a quest.

What complicates their professional meetings is that Tex starts flirting with Robert. Both men are single and gay and, despite being polar opposites, they are attracted to each other.

Once sex and intimacy interfere in their heated but rational debate, al bets are off and each seems driven to corral the other into his own belief structure.

Robert sees Tex as "casually assisting death" and defying God's own plan. Tex vies Robert as a ivory tower intellectual and snob who uses his version of faith to justify ignoring the pain of the victims of grave illness.

Bower manages to find charm in the supercilious and almost dislikeable Robert.
Is maddening rationality is credible for such an academic.

As Tex, Gilmore vibrates with a barely contained anxiety and energy, his passion for his patients equalling his delight in flirting with Robert and causing him  discomfort.

The spare light and set design (Andrew Lake) and economical and intelligent direction by Sally Richardson make this a compelling piece of theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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