Health-care system inspires one-man showA Juilliard-trained actor who has appeared on Broadway will perform his one-man show inspired by the health-care system Monday at the Play Ground.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
A Juilliard-trained actor who has appeared on Broadway will perform his one-man show inspired by the health-care system Monday at the Play Ground.
“Mercy Killers,” by Michael Milligan, is about an independent, Limbaugh-loving mechanic who is interrogated by police after the death of his wife. Through the interview, Joe begins to question his beliefs and the limits of self-reliance. Milligan, a New York City-based actor who is in the Guthrie Theater’s production of “Appomattox,” has been touring in Minnesota and New York. His show recently played for the Minnesota Nurses Association convention. “Mercy Killers” plays at 7 p.m. Monday at the Play Ground. A talkback follows the production.
For Milligan, the show was a chance to combine his skills as a writer, performer and citizen activist, he said.
“As an actor, you’re often sort of in the position of mercenary,” he said. “You audition and people decide ‘do we want you for this production?’ As an activist, I want to have more of a say about what it is I’m lending my talent to as both a writer and a performer.”
Milligan recently talked about the genesis of the show, what went into writing it and the feedback he has gotten.
On the origin of the play
MM: I was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, participating in many of the larger marches. That sort of awakened my latent sense of political activism. It culminated in me getting arrested in front of the courthouse.
I was uninsured for the first time in my life in the spring. Three weeks after I lost my insurance, I started to pass kidney stones. I had no idea what was going on. It happened in the middle of the night. I thought I was dying. I was trying to diagnose myself on the Internet.
Kidney stones aren’t a serious problem, but extremely painful. It made me think about what it meant to be insured. I was in a relationship for many years with someone who had a chronic illness and was uninsured. And so, that is also part of the genesis of the play.
On what went into writing it
MM: The actual situation is made up, based on research I’ve done of people’s health-care horror stories, interviews with some doctors, interviews with other people who have dealt with being uninsured.
I probably read eight or nine books about the health-care system, then also four or five books about the financial crises. They’re interrelated, and so the play also explores the interconnection.
On audience responses
MM: I did a performance of it in New York at Revolution Books. I had a conversation with this woman afterward who was telling me how much she enjoyed the play. We maybe had a 15-minute conversation. I was talking to someone else, and that person told me that the first lady I was talking to has breast cancer and has been struggling with it for many years and she’s bankrupt. It’s become her whole life struggle. It made me feel like I really need to get this play out there for people to see, so they can hear what it is really like to deal with one of these things.
On what audiences will see
MM: It’s a dramatic performance set in this interrogation room. It’s about this guy’s personal struggle and it’s him grappling with the loss of his wife and basically the loss of his world view.
My goal is to do a longer run in New York City and then travel around with it to other towns. I’d like to do it in midsized cities like Duluth and Columbus (Ohio) and use it as a way to get the conversation going about the health-care system, which, unfortunately, regardless of the way the election goes, the problems present in the play — underinsured and medical bankruptcy — are going to continue whether Obama or Romney is president.
Go see it
What: “Mercy Killers,” a one-act written and performed by Michael Milligan
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Play Ground, 11 E. Superior St.
Tickets: $15; Go to duluthplayground.org or at the door
A few things from Milligan’s bio: He has appeared on Broadway in “August: Osage County” and “La Bete.” He won the John Houseman Prize for excellence in classical drama while studying at Juilliard and has traveled around the world performing Shakespeare. A reading of his verse play, “Phaeton,” featured Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley. He is performing at the Guthrie Theater.