An Existential Conundrum Plays Out on the Victory Stage

McCabe, Coover. Photo by Tim Sullens.

This is the first production in two years for the venerable Victory Theatre, and it has chosen to present a bombshell of a dilemma with A Terminal Event by Richard Willett.

This intriguing new play poses the existential question: is it better to die a natural slow, death surrounded by loved ones, or die more quickly from complications of treatment from such a disease in a hospital?  Obviously, this question is not one we would like to dwell on at any length.  However, playwright Willett has managed to lay out the alternatives in an engaging way so that we can come to our own conclusions.

Willett brings together two contrasting stories through Katie (Laura Coover), a young receptionist at an oncologist’s office. Katie is drawn into the plights of two patients: Roberta (Randi Lynne Weidman) is slated for an operation to eliminate her cancer.  The other, Desmond (Marshall McCabe), is a rafish young man who declares that he can handle his cancer through alternative means. Along the way, issues of medical malfeasance are brushed under the rug. Obviously, that’s a play for another day!

The play asymmetrically focuses first on Roberta’s plight before moving on to the budding romance between Katie and Desmond as he gradually grows more and more ill. Director Maria Gobetti maintains the humor as well as the pathos between Katie, her oncologist boss (played at opening by understudy John Idakitis), and each of the two patients.  

The whole is played against a realistic background (designed by Evan Bartoletti) that serves as doctor’s office, hospital, and apartment, all at once.  Although a bit confusing, the force of each actor’s intensity overwhelms our sense of place as each story unfolds. In true Victory Theatre fashion, Carol Doehring’s lighting, Sam Salman’s costumes, and Chris “CB” Brown’s sound featuring compositions by John Brainard unifies the whole. This is the kind of play that will leave audiences pondering their own choices.  There is so much food for thought that there should be a talk-back after every performance! With refreshments, of course.

A Terminal Event continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 4 pm through July 10. Tickets, $28.00 to $40.00. For reservations, call (818) 841-5421. For more information go online at