Sunday, November 06, 2016

Play: In the Blood

Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman, Directed by Chay Yew, until 13 November, 2106, Seattle Repertory.

The first thing you notice is the stage backdrop - a chaos storm of chairs, rockers, cribs, and children's toys, all in shades of white. A preschool Guernica. It doesn't get any easier from there on out.

Roz and Ray is about the spread of the HIV Virus among hemophiliacs in the 70s and 80s. Roz (Ellen McLaughlin) is Dr. Roz Kagan, specializing in pediatric hemophilia. Ray (Teagle F. Bougere) is Ray Leon, father of hemophiliac twins. In the opening scenes, Ray is hailing Roz as a savior, as a new blood product will give his kids a shot at a traditional life. Moments later it is ten years later and he's standing outside the hospital with a sign, bellowing that Roz Kagan killed his sons. The play is linking those moments.

It is complicated. The encompasses a time when AIDs was burgeoning into our blood supply and our national consciousness. What seems to be a miracle cure for hemophilia turns into a nightmare, and the relentless forces of medicine and markets forces decision-making in real-time with no redemption for a wrong choice, and no chance for a right one.

There is something else going on as well - Roz and Ray hook up. Her marriage is falling apart and he sees her as the mom his kids don't have. And that snakes through everything as well. Like I said, it is complicated.

Bougere has the more volatile role, spinning on a dime to transverse the decades. Sometimes equally overwhelming and overwhelmed, his Ray is a force of chaos dedicated to his unseen kids. Roz is a sense of order, and goes from eager and overloaded to just tired and worn out over the course of the years, dealing with the plague among her charges, a plague she had aided in spreading. Remorse and responsibility stalk through the play, and if the writing is a bit earnest in places, it tries to bring things back to the crisis at hand.

Its a tough play, and jumping through time gives both a sense of inevitability and a feeling of closure. Both actors swing for the fences with their parts, and is a good, tight, play for the Rep.

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