Review: Edge of Life (Inglis Hall Productions)

| October 21, 2018

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0418    

   

Edge of Life

Written by Joel Z. Cornfield
Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map)
thru Nov 3  |  tix: $27-$37  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Do Not Resuscitate

  

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0533

    
Inglis Hall Productions presents
    
Edge of Life

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

Writing a play about one’s own life experiences isn’t always the best idea.

Though intentions are good, there’s a specific emotional investment involved with autobiographical material that can prevent the distance necessary to ensure quality. When feelings are involved, objectivity can go out the window. To borrow a cliché, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0141Take Edge of Life. Playwright Joel Z. Cornfield penned this hospital dramedy in tribute to two family members who succumbed to death in different ways. Clearly, the subject matter means a lot to him but, sadly, this doesn’t translate into a good play. Edge of Life is an exceedingly long 90 minutes, and has all the depth of a high school play about a Very Serious Subject – complete with a young actress in old-age makeup.

It’s telling that the two doctors (Daniel Dauphin and Ronny Stein) are straight men who present as white, while their nurses are, respectively, a woman of color (Aziza Macklin) and a gay man (Travis Monroe Neese, whose character also disappears after three lines). It’s telling that director Brian McKnight and team clearly put a lot more thought into their revolving set – which is much more trouble than it’s worth – and very ill-advised monitor screens showing X-rays and the hospital’s logo, than they did into considering whether the script is actually presentable. It’s also telling that the doctors keep conflating “euthanasia” and “hospice,” which are two very, very different things, and one does not need a medical degree to know that.

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions DSC7475Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A9583 Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0466Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0017Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions DSC8354

All of the above is hard evidence that McKnight led with his heart, not with his head, when writing Edge of Life. It’s doubtful most audience members have medical degrees and could pick apart every tiny inaccuracy. However, literally everything in Edge of Life is either wrong to the point of insulting, or completely tired. For example, surgeon Jake (Dauphin) is first shown in bed with his nurse (Macklin), a bottle of hard liquor next to him. He’s divorced with two young sons and favors jeans and T-shirts over scrubs. He’s also commitment-phobic and irresponsible, but steps up to the plate when his former high school football coach (Buzz Leer) is dying of cancer and wants his advice. This entire character and arc are so predictable, the audience could set their watches by it.

Rather than a tribute to the dying, Edge of Life is an insult. Not only does Leer move and articulate remarkably well for someone about to cross over to the other side, he also spouts words found in ill-advised greeting cards. The actors seem under-rehearsed, presumably because the revolving set took most of the director’s energy. That’s to say nothing of the overwrought dialogue even George Clooney’s character on ER couldn’t save: “Goddammit, you’re not dead yet!” “My fight is for you, for us. So we can be together.” “We’re all dying. None of us knows how long we have.” McKnight’s intentions and emotions were no doubt real, but his actual play contains no authenticity whatsoever. My advice for Edge of Life? Do Not Resuscitate.

  
Rating:
  

Edge of Life continues through November 3rd at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $37 (students and seniors: $27), and are available by phone (773-935-6875) or online through OvationTix.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at AthenaeumTheatre.org(Running time: 90 minutes without intermission)

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0645

Photos by Liz Lauren 


  

artists

cast

Daniel Dauphin (Jake), Aziza Macklin (Heather), Buzz Leer (Bill), Darren Lee Brown (Kurt), Travis Monroe Neese (Ira), Lorie Lee (Millie), Ronny Stein (Gus)

behind the scenes

Brian McKnight (director), Glass Apple Theatre (executive producer), Inglis Hall Productions (producer), Michael Stults (production manager), Ally Wetz (production stage manager), Simon Berdes (asst. stage manager), Evan Frank (scenic design), Michael Goebel (lighting design), Steve Labedz (sound design), Gary Nocco (costume design), Chris Owens (video design), Taylor Tengelsen (props design), Al Hidalgo (graphic design), Direction Tour Distribution (promotional materials), Liz Lauren (photos)

Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A9591Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0578Edge of Life by Joel Z. Cornfield, Inglis Hall Productions C6A0539

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Athenauem, Inglis Hall Productions, Lauren Emily Whalen, New Work, World Premier

Comments (1)

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  1. Joel Cornfield says:

    Guess you can’t win them all. While I disagree, I understand. Maybe next time?