New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through August 4, 2012
By K.J. Rogowski
Jane Anderson’s “The Quality of Life,” playing at the New Century Theatre is a production that pulls out all the stops, and takes on the topic of death, both recent and impending, with forthrightness, wit and humanity.
The script introduces the thoughts, emotions, and philosophies of four individuals, two couples and old friends, whose views on death are as divergent as possible. One couple has lost a daughter to a senseless crime, murder. The other is facing a terminal illness and the plans they have devised to deal with it. As their stories are revealed, so are their stances -- be they emotional, religious, legal, or just common sense/practical. Arguments are fought, alliances are made and broken, and friendships and marriages teeter not only on the brink of their losses, but of impending dissolution.
Dinah and Bill, played by Laurie Dawn and Sam Rush, are the practical mid-Western, church going visitors. Jeannette and Neil,acted by Cate Damon and David Mason, are their free spirited, free thinking West Coast friends, who are dealing with Neil’s terminal condition, and a devastating fire that has just destroyed their home. Their culture and lifestyle conflicts alone are a strain on their meeting, but as the painful layers of each couple’s suffering and style of coping surface, anger and indignation build, and other secrets are revealed.
Set against the skeletal remains of Neil and Jeannette’s burnt out home, this play hits hot button after hot button, for the characters and the audience alike, and what seems to be the answer to the pain and loss now, is soon upended by an unexpected plot twist. “The Quality of Life” makes for a quick paced, challenging and rewarding evening.