Playwright David Rabe’s “A Question of Mercy” was probably more revolutionary when it was written in 1997, when topics like AIDS awareness, gay relationships and doctor-assisted suicide were more controversial and prominent in the media.
But that’s not to say that the play, which is being presented in a new production by the Evolution Theatre Company, isn’t a compelling work. What it lacks in immediacy, it more than makes up for with rich character development and genuine emotion.
Dr. Robert Chapman (Mark Phillips Schwamberger) is a retired surgeon, but that doesn’t stop Thomas (CJ Chapman) from seeking his assistance. Thomas’ AIDS-stricken boyfriend Anthony (Daniel Christian) is slowly and painfully dying, and he hopes the doctor can help end his suffering.
While the show primarily focuses on Robert wrestling with his feelings and how far he’s willing to go to help a patient in need, it’s really Thomas who evokes the emotional heart of the issue.
Chapman plays Thomas as a constantly fretting boyfriend, torn between his desires to keep his boyfriend and respect his wishes. Every time Robert and Anthony talk clinically about the deed and the actual act of taking the pills, Chapman’s Thomas gives away his true feelings with small gestures and a sweet vulnerability.