A play exploring the moral and ethical questions surrounding the decision of an organ transplant committee will take the stage this weekend at Baraboo’s University of Wisconsin campus.
“The God Committee,” written by Mark St. Germain, dramatizes the deliberation of a New York City hospital committee tasked with deciding in a “very short period of time” which of several patients should receive a donor heart after an unexpected event throws the decision into the air, said director Molly Maslin Arbogast.
“I think that people would find it interesting because there’s so much that medicine can do now for people to extend our lives that’s really beyond what is natural, and to have then people making a decision” about who ultimately benefits “brings up all kinds of questions,” Arbogast said.
She said the process of narrowing down donor heart recipients can be “troubling,” as the hour-and-a-half play demonstrates.
“You know, I have a donor sticker on my driver’s license,” she said. “I’ve never thought about how somebody would sit there and say, ‘OK. Will this go to patient A, B, C or D?’ Wow, that’s big.”
UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County will present the play, described by the publisher as a cross between “Twelve Angry Men” and hospital dramas like “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday in the R.G. Browne Theater. Available at the door or in advance at tickets.uwplatt.edu or 608-342-1298, tickets cost $12 for adults and $5 for Boo-U students and anyone under 18.
The seven characters — three doctors, a social worker, a psychiatrist, a nurse and a priest — includes Dr. Alex Gorman, a talented but heartless heart surgeon played by freshman Owen Burri of Baraboo.
“They’re going to love to hate him,” Burri said of the audience’s reaction to Dr. Gorman. “He’s a very dislikable character. Definitely the heel of the show.”
The Baraboo native said he’s never performed in a serious drama prior to rehearsals starting in early October, which is one of the reasons he was drawn to it. But also, “I really, really love being in theater and after last year with, like, no theater opportunities, I’m jumping at anything I can get to,” Burri said.
Four other students and two community members, Iveta Petkova-Ball of Baraboo and Alec Parsons of Portage, fill out the cast. Three more students are working behind the scenes, Arbogast said.
Playing social worker Dominick Piero, sophomore Jacob Barrix of Mauston said he was “excited to jump into something new.” He’s previously performed in musicals but this is his first play, he said.
“It’s going really well,” Barrix said. “I’ve never met any of these people before, but it’s been a good experience. The cast is great.”
He encouraged the community to “come out and support” the college theater program this weekend.
“I think it’s really fun. People will love to watch it. It’s serious but yet there’s some funny aspects to it, so it will be a good play,” he said.
Arbogast has performed in previous campus productions and directed one other play for it.
A guest lecturer at UW-Baraboo while theater professor Damian Ernest is on leave, she said the drama’s discussion of morality is beneficial, especially in an educational setting. Ernest also held a virtual reading of the play last semester, she said.
It may seem particularly relevant to an audience who has been living through a pandemic.
“We’re all, every day with everything we do, making decisions that can impact other people’s lives,” Arbogast said. The selection committee’s impact is more obvious and immediate, “but whether we wear a mask, whether we vaccinate, whether we obey traffic laws ... all those things are impacting people’s lives every day.”
GALLERY: Shortened Shakespeare at Boo U
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo/Sauk County will present "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" at the campus theater Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Student actors will present 37 Shakespeare plays in 97 minutes.
Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.