Review: Coma (AfriCan Theatre Ensemble)

Coma

An eye-opening story about assisted suicide, Coma is playing at Toronto’s Al Green Theatre

Coma, a production of the AfriCan Theatre Ensemble, tackles a timely subject given the renewed debate about assisted suicide, euthanasia and death with dignity.

Nana, played by Lorraine Klaasen, has been in a coma in a vegetative state for 15 months. Her daughter Ifueko, played by Bridget Ogundipe, has been taking care of her and paying her hospital bills and has decided that it’s time to take Nana off life support.

When she calls her estranged brother Osasu, played by Wales Ojo, in Canada to tell him, he surprises her by asking her not to do anything until he gets there.

Jude Idada, the playwright, is from Nigeria and the play is set in a hospital room in Lagos. It deals with the siblings trying to reach a decision. The siblings discuss, argue, laugh, cry, fight and sing while they try and find common ground. They talk about their childhood, their adult lives, their mother, about spirituality, Christianity, and Juju.

Nana hears it all and responds by singing. The Nana in the bed is a dummy. It’s the spirit Nana who sings. And sings beautifully; Klassen has a magnificent voice.

All of these elements should combine to make an emotionally and intellectually exciting play. For me, they didn’t. I found that the play had a preachy tone and I felt as if I was being pounded with its moral message.

The characters had two voices; they used a natural voice when they were talking about mundane things and used a lecturing voice when they were talking about ‘important’ things. For me it was like reading a book in which someone has underlined the important stuff for me. Not something that I enjoy.

Ogundipe and Ojo are both talented actors but those changes in voice made it hard for me to identify with their characters. At times they seemed like real people and at other times it seemed as if they were in a 1950s instructional video. The language changed too, it was very formal for the ‘important’ parts.

At two hours the play felt too long. In my head I was urging the characters to ‘speed it up’ and spit it out’.

Ending life support is an important topic and an issue that more and more of us are going to have to face. Although the presentation wasn’t exactly my taste it did get me thinking about it.

Details:

  • Coma is playing at the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave) until November 3rd.
  • Performance times: Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 4pm.
  • Tickets are $35.00
  • Tickets are available online, by email at info@africantheatre.org or by phone at (647) 527 9995

Photo of Wale Ojo & Bridget Ogundipe by Glenn Davidson