“Assisted Living” at ACT

There are few people in The United States who would deny that health care costs, especially for seniors, are rising at a level that will soon become unsustainable. As a compassionate nation we want to provide care for our aging population, but how we pay for it is a question that has stumped us all. Health care for the aged in the near future is what local playwright Katie Forgette’s humorous play is all about.

Unfortunately this ham-handed effort to treat that subject is trite, silly, and a bit vulgar. Even the considerable talents of Director R. Hamilton Wright can’t save this play.

Too bad, because it has a star studded cast and an elegant set. Julie Briskman plays Nurse Claudia as if she’s a commandant in a Nazi prison camp. There’s not a humane bone in her body. The elders subjected to her unsympathetic officiousness (Kurt Beattie, Laura Kenny, Marianne Owen and Jeff Steitzer) all have grit and gumption. The world they are trapped in may be against them, but they know how to fight back. Each is a distinctive personality yet they all meld well together.

Important concepts are touched on here. Can we afford to provide care that respects the dignity of all, that doesn’t dehumanize those least able to fend for themselves? How do we balance social vs. personal responsibility. Should society pay for someone who abuses his or her body, drinks or eats to excess, smokes, or doesn’t follow medical advice? Important questions all, and they can be addressed with humor as this play does. If only they had been handled in a more sophisticated manner.

Through May 12 at ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle; (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

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