The God Committee

 The Death Panel might be just as fitting a title for Mark St Germain’s pithy look at the dilemmas of organ transplant. 

 EnsembleEnsemble Theatre, Sydney
Friday, 23 July, 2010  The Death Panel might be just as fitting a title for Mark St Germain’s pithy look at the dilemmas of organ transplant. The eponymous Committee is based in a New York hospital, must choose which of patient will be the lucky recipient of a slightly used heart. Conflicting priorities, ego run amok and a ticking clock combine to create a pressure-cooker situation. The God Committee takes place in a single meeting that must decide who gets a heart that’s been recently freed up and is speeding its way towards the hospital. The Committee is comprised of every kind of medico you would hope to encounter on ER or Scrubs. There’s the naïve young Kiera (Rachael Coopes) who is unsure of her career choice. Committee head Jack (Robert Alexander) is dealing with his own mortality, while Ann (Deborah Galanos) questions her ability as a psychiatrist when she fumbles with her own daughter’s troubles. Nella (Pamela Jikiemi) is a little stereotyped as the no-nonsense black nurse, and the same could be said for Domenick, a social worker who hides his pain with bad jokes. Bringing up the rear are by Priest/Lawyer Father Dunbar (Noel Hodda) and arrogant surgeon Alex (Duncan Young), a man who’s a whizz with the scalpel but, you guessed it, a failure as a human being. All that’s missing is a hooker with a heart of gold. Throw into the mix a few ethical dilemmas involving a famous patient with a rich daddy, supposed hopeless cases, bribery, buckets of cash and spectacular ego clashes. While The God Committee is essentially a talkfest the sense of urgency rarely lets up, and the actors mostly succeed in keeping the pace up. Things don’t always crackle as they should though, and you sometimes wonder if maintaining American accents is an unnecessary distraction for the cast. St Germain has created a set of characters that contains hints of subtle distinctions in the way they see things. An anomaly is the character of the surgeon. While most of his colleagues display some nuance in their personality, Dr Gorman is a Grade-A A-Hole. While his sniping and snarling can be quite entertaining, it seems a little out of place in a play where very other character displays the occasional qualm about how their personal prejudices will affect their decision. Having said that, Young thoroughly revels in the role. The production is pretty straightforward. The set and sound are serviceable if a little unimaginative. Andrew Doyle’s direction balances the talkiness with plenty of non-verbal cues and body language, helping to reinforce the sense of entrapment that each character feels – whether from the difficulty of making a decision or being stuck in a room with a jerk of a cardio surgeon. It would be easy to dismiss The God Committee as a by-the numbers piece. But the blend of drama, wittiness and wonderful performances is just right, and makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking experience.  Until 29 August 2010 Bookings: (02)9929 0644 

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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