Assisted Dying. Assisted Suicide. It’s the subject at the core of Sage Theatre’s newest production Bea. It’s a compelling concept, especially given that the federal government just passed legislation that created a regulatory framework for assisted dying in Canada. Bea presents this situation but doesn’t really delve into how complicated it can be.
Beatrice (Makambe K. Simamba) is a young woman trapped in her body, unable to move on her own. But the audience doesn’t see that. Bea, as she wishes to be called, is vibrant and capable. Her mother (Shauna Baird) takes care of her and has hired Raymond Alexander (Paul Welch) to be her nurse during the day.
Bea wants to die. She wants to die as soon as possible and knows that this causes upheaval in her mother, but it is her wish. This is the basis of the play.
Director Kevin McKendrick does what he can with the script, but the entire production is waiting for the twist that never comes. Is everything that happens really in Bea’s imagination? Are the boundaries between caregiver and lover really that blurred? What information does the audience not hold?
Jason Mehmel’s sound design captures some of the content in the play, and Shane Anderson’s lighting design highlights moments within the narrative.
Simamba flips between the vibrant, healthy Bea and the one that is very ill at the drop of a hat and it is remarkable to watch. Welch embodies ‘not gay Ray’ and prances around in high heels and a dress. Baird doesn’t put in a bad performance, but the narrative of the story doesn’t add up, especially for her character. Relationships don’t really make sense. The playwright, Mick Gordon, doesn’t really explore the complicated feelings behind assisted dying. He explores Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, he explores how Ray may or may not be gay, he fills his play with a lot of content that feels all over the place.
Bea takes on an interesting topic but is a bit of a mess in its execution.
Sage Theatre’s Bea runs until November 12th. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Jason Mehmel