Kat Sandler presents her latest play Liver, a dark comedy at Toronto’s Storefront Theatre
Toronto’s prolific indie theatre wunderkind playwright, Kat Sandler (Delicacy, Punch-Up, Retreat) returns with her latest play Liver; a dark comedy about a man who wakes up in a medical examination room missing his liver. If that scenario kind of makes your stomach-churn, not to worry; Liver is not nearly as macabre as it sounds but it is sharp, thought-provoking and wickedly funny.
As the play starts, Glen (Michael Musi), a meek teaching assistant at a medical school enters the room with Lacey (Katelyn McCulloch); a fiery 23-year-old he met on Tinder whom he’s now trying to impress. He shows her a corpse of a recently deceased man who donated his body to science and whose liver has just been removed by medical students. When Lacey starts to get a little freaky with the corpse it unexpectedly springs back to life.
Sandler uses the unlikely scenario as a construct to explore themes like medical ethics, aging and immortality.
As it turns out, Andrew the former corpse (Shaun Benson), is a throughly unlikeable asshole; an unrepentant, womanizing alcoholic and the type of guy who “uses the word ‘retarded’ completely un-ironically.”
Liver wades into the muddy waters of medical ethics when Glen’s supervisor Dr. Halik (Sean Sullivan) insists Andrew be held for study in the name of “science” for the good of all humankind. On the one hand it’s the best contribution an irredeemable asshole like Andrew could ever make; but on the other hand that’s not Halik’s decision.
Utterly convinced of his own righteousness, Halik makes increasingly twisted suggestions to the point where one character draws a comparison with infamous Nazi medical researcher Josef Mengele.
Another highlight is the scene between Lacey and Andrew’s ex wife Rachel (Claire Armstrong). It’s a complex tango of a scene where the two women come to the verge of forming a bond over shots from a bottle of Malibu rum but any connection is inevitably undermined by Rachel’s jealousy and Lacey’s naïveté. It’s two women fighting over a man neither of them really wants and revealing truths about youth and aging in the process.
With consistently strong performances from a talented ensemble, Liver is executed with all the finesse we’ve come to expect from Sandler, who also helmed the production as the director. The pacing is tight and the tone is pitch perfect; the sharp, biting dialogue delivers laughs at a good rhythm.
On opening night there was a palpable excitement; during the blackout transition after the first scene the audience burst into enthusiastic applause. That’s just the type of reaction this play elicits.
In the end the questions raised go largely unresolved which can feel a bit unsatisfying but Sandler’s aim isn’t to moralize; with Liver she provokes thought while being wildly entertaining and at that she succeeds in spades. I loved how the play kept me laughing as I grappled with the complex questions it raises. Liver is genuinely smart and funny.
- Liver is playing at the Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West) through May 10, 2015
- Shows run Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM and 8:00PM
- Tickets ($20.00 to $25.00) available online www.secureaseaseat.com
Photo of Katelyn McCulloch and Shaun Benson by Radey Barrack