As the Canadian population ages, the question of the sort of end we each might local becomes more pressing. Modern medical care may be able to ensure an extended lifespan, while not being able to guarantee a high quality of life in this extra time so given. Living Will, a show put on by The Living Will Company at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a sensitive and always watchable dramatization of an issue relevant to us all.
Living Will begins at the home of Wilfrid King (Bill MacDonald), a strong and proud man in his late 70s ready to discuss with his children provisions for the end of his life. Divides among his children, already strained, become chasms when Wilfrid begins to encounter serious health issues.
One thing I quite liked about Living Will was this play’s fundamental humanity. The script by Toronto theatre veteran Helen-Claire Tingley makes clear that, while different people have different opinions about what is to be done, the script does not demonize any one character or set of perspectives. Everyone is trying to do the best they can in a very difficult situation. This even-handedness makes Living Will a strong play.
This performance makes good use of the Factory Theatre Mainspace stage, action smoothly transitioning from living room to waiting room to hospital bedside.
With a uniformly strong cast, everyone shone. Bill MacDonald did a wonderful job portraying paterfamilias Wilfrid, compellingly portraying a man as he struggled through his decline.
Peter Nelson, playing Wilfrid’s elder son Jake, was quite good depicting a man doing his best to abide by his father’s wishes. This performance paired well with that of Abraham Asto, playing Wilfrid’s youngest child Galen. Galen’s desperate wish to keep his father alive against even his father’s wishes was made worthy of sympathy by Asto’s performance.
In many ways, the central character in Living Will was Wilfrid’s daughter Annie, a woman whose desire to do the best for her father was guided by her unconditional love for him; Andrea Davis was superb here. I could hear, sitting in the theatre, other audience members being audibly moved by the conclusion as delivered by Davis.
Living Will is seventy compelling minutes of drama, examining an issue relevant to all Canadians and doing so in an even-handed and dramatically satisfying way. Expect to leave the theatre perhaps saddened but enlightened.
- Living Will is playing until July 15 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst Street)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
- July 6th at 1:00 pm
- July 7th at 1:45 pm
- July 9th at 1:00 pm
- July 11th at 3:30 pm
- July 12th at 8:45 pm
- July 14th at 11:00 pm
- July 15th at 7:00 pm
Image of Andrea Davis and Bill MacDonald by Matthew Sarookanian.