There is a recurring theme running through medical dramas: the main characters are invariably the doctors, set up as the heroes of the story, whereas the patient is reduced to a collection of problems that need to be solved. “The patients are sort of like an object inside the story,” playwright Lois Brown observes.
Brown’s newest play “When the Angel of Death Says? How Are You…” is set in a hospital, with the main focus on Patience, a woman who was recently in a car accident. The audience is treated to her personal medicated haze while confined to a hospital room. Through her journey, Patience is accompanied by the Angel of Death and two little girls who had been present at the site of the accident (or maybe they only exist inside Patience’s mind. The answer is up in the air).
“I’m trying to explore what happens from that perspective. And so she has these imaginary little girls from the scene of her accident who are kind of inside her head, or are they real?” Brown says.
“And then that leads her through this journey that I’m exploring, where sometimes in the case of a traumatic accident … it triggers other traumatic events as well. So she has that to deal with as well.” Brown says trauma and unresolved tension are themes that run throughout the play.
Back in 2008, Brown was struck by a SUV while crossing the street, and it’s only now that she’s finally been able to put pen to paper and stage her latest play. But it wasn’t easy, “I found it really hard to write,” recalls Brown.
“I took some more passes at it but I was finishing it up this past year, and it just took me forever,” she laughs. She would sit down for hours and would be stumped, writing and rewriting.
“It was because the act of writing threw me right back into the unresolved aspects of the accident … because it was so unexpected that the person hit me. Often when I try to cross the street or something I go into this frozen mode where I’ll stop in the middle of the street.”
While Brown originally described her play as surrealist, she says it has a touch of science fiction to it as well. “So one of the things that happens to Patience is that this seems to her to be some kind of time warp that’s happened. Because she was trying to cross the street and it was interrupted and that seems like this huge psychological interruption. And it starts her remembering another accident that happened to her daughter. And then she’s scared that anything she might do could disrupt this tenuous fabric of time,” Brown explains.
Patience’s daughter was fine at the moment in this timeline, “but maybe this time something would happen. And then one of her visitors is telling her, ‘Well, that’s in the past.’ And she’s like ‘Well, how do we know that’s in the past?’”
When the Angel of Death says ?How Are You … will be playing at the LSPU Hall from August 4-7.