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Feb. 14, 2013

One-man play health care premise connects to CSU

By Kelsey Smith

On Monday, Feb. 11, theater veteran Michael Milligan presented his acclaimed one-man play, “Mercy Killers,” on the Allen Theatre Second Stage at Playhouse Square. Milligan, in collaboration with the Single Player Action Network, has been touring Ohio presenting the play, which focuses on the hot-topic of healthcare.

Milligan is an Ohio native, was born in Westerville and attended college at The Ohio State University. From Ohio State, he moved to New York City where he studied acting for four years at Juilliard. He has since performed on-Broadway, off-Broadway, in London’s West End and in the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England.

It’s much more difficult to get a play produced today than it was centuries ago. Theater has become such an expensive enterprise that most theaters rely on corporate sponsors to stay active. In recent times theater has also become commercialized, which places limitations on the types of plays produced.

With his plays, Milligan likes to challenge what most think is “acceptable theater.”

“I have a burning desire to write plays that challenge the status quo, and this puts me in a bind in terms of the reality of getting a play produced,” Milligan said.

Despite the difficulties of getting a play produced, Milligan found success in getting his one-man show produced and is in the midst of a regional tour.

“The ‘Mercy Killers Tour’ is an experiment in finding a way to get a piece that deals with an urgent social issue directly to an audience,” Milligan said. “With this particular subject matter, I felt an urgency to take a time-out from my legitimate career and bring the piece to the stage.”

“Mercy Killers” explores the dysfunction of health care in the United States through the character of Joe, an Ohio man who is being interrogated by the police over the death of his cancer-stricken wife. Joe identifies with the Tea Party and believes in “the American dream.” His dream is shattered when his wife’s life insurance is revoked and they become trapped in the inner-workings of the current health care system.

“I wrote ‘Mercy Killers’ because I wanted to get back to the roots of what drove me to be an actor in the first place, which was to make people wake up,” Milligan said.

The topics “Mercy Killers” focuses on, in addition to being hot political issues, also coincide with issues Cleveland State will have to face as it continues to market itself as a school for health sciences.

“The play that Michael Milligan has created perfectly fits into Cleveland State's branding both in Health and Urban Sustainability,” said Michael Mauldin, Theater Department chair. “Dealing as the play does with questions surrounding health care in America, the university is the ideal venue to host issues of community interest and foster discussion and debate.”

Milligan chose to make the play free to the public because he believes health care is something that has an impact on everyone’s lives.

“Mercy Killers” will be making stops in Akron, Dayton, Athens, Columbus and Toledo.

Photo courtesy of www.mercykillerstheplay.com