The streets of Broadway are all too often saturated with upbeat, campy musicals about topics far outside of our immediate world (i.e. "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King"). And don’t get me wrong — while it’s often fun to escape the drone of normal college life for the musical stylings of a ginger mermaid, sometimes what we need is something a little more heavy.
Enter "Causa Mortis." This dark comedy, written by author and playwright Jacob M. Appel, follows the unfortunate conditions of two hospital patients and the difficult decisions their families and doctors must make. Currently playing at Stephens College Warehouse Theatre, this play will have you cracking up at its peculiar plot and unusual characters.
Time is ticking, literally, for Eleanor, played by Morgan Schoob, who has been staying in a hospital for 66 days on account of having a wristwatch lodged in her brain. This watch was accidentally left in Eleanor’s head during a previous surgery and is now threatening to cut off the blood supply to her brain.
Upon first hearing of this storyline, I was skeptical that anyone could pull it off believably, but Schoob’s authentic acting and wonderful comedic, ahem, timing made the story convincing and intriguing. Her ability to make every scene laugh-out-loud funny was enjoyable. She even had me giggling as she acted out a murder attempt -— if that’s not talent, what is?
The cast was rounded out with other Stephens College students, including Leslie Hudson and Breanne Pickering, who played Schoob’s daughters, Paige and Gloria, respectively. While Hudson added a much-needed seriousness to the show, it was Pickering’s overdramatic monologue that stole the second act.
Even with a small cast and an absence of set changes, "Causa Mortis" drew in audience members as it explored the world of medical ethics and hospital practices.
Emma Carter, who plays medical student Robyn, guided the show along as she stumbled her way through the hospital, complaining about how her only wish was to help people. It seems there’s much more to the medical world than beneficence, though, and as plot twists unfold, Carter pilots the storyline and guides the audience through all of her (and the patients') misfortunes.
By the end of the two-hour play, I found myself questioning my thoughts on death, ethics and what gives life meaning. Needless to say, the dark part of this dark comedy did not get lost in the shuffle.
No matter if you’re a seasoned theater-goer or just looking for some entertainment to spice up your weekend, "Causa Mortis" will be sure to leave your brain thinking and your abs hurting.
"Causa Mortis" plays 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 – 10.