“Mercy” pits revenge against redemption

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Scene from
Scene from "Mercy" with Jacob A. Ware and Nandita Shenoy pictured. Photo by SuzAnne Barabas
New Jersey Repertory presents Mercy

Mercy, a new play by Adam Szymkowicz, is being given its world premiere by the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. It is a strongly-written play with a fine cast. Like so many of the plays presented by NJ Rep, it is deserving of being seen. And I hated it.

The play centers on Orville Marks, whose pregnant wife has recently been killed by a drunk driver. The baby, a girl, was saved, adding the burdens of single parenthood to Orville’s grief. While his father and his female boss try to alleviate his pain, Orville insists he is fine and handling the situation. That is, until the night Orville spots Ian, the drunk driver, and follows him to an AA meeting. Pretending to be a fellow alcoholic, Orville strikes up a tentative friendship with Ian — and the next day, purchases a gun. When Ian, drunk and suicidal, calls him seeking support, Orville wastes no time getting to Ian’s apartment. Once there, Orville needs to make a choice: will he save Ian from himself, or let him die?

Orville is a portrait of a man in the worst kind of emotional turmoil
Scene from "Mercy" with Dan Grimaldi and Jacob A. Ware in photo by SuzAnne Barabas
Scene from “Mercy” with Dan Grimaldi and Jacob A. Ware in photo by SuzAnne Barabas

Director Gail Winar expertly puts her cast through their paces, maintaining suspense over Orville’s actions right up to the climax. Jacob A. Ware’s portrayal of Orville is a compelling portrait of a man in the worst kind of emotional turmoil, pushing away all attempts at solace from those around him while maintaining a rigid unemotional shell. In contrast, Christopher Daftsios gives us an Ian who deeply regrets what he has done, knowing that his actions will haunt him for the rest of his life. Together they present two men united by one horrific incident, each of whom desperately need to find self-forgiveness. As Orville’s father Walter, Dan Grimaldi provides both comic relief and experience-based wisdom. Finally, Nadita Shenoy is Brenda, Orville’s married boss, whose attempts to help him cross the line into sexual harassment.

Pictured Jacob A. Ware and Christopher Daftsios in "Mercy" photo by SuzAnne Barabas
Pictured Jacob A. Ware and Christopher Daftsios in “Mercy” photo by SuzAnne Barabas

Why did I say I hated this play? Because its ending rests on one character believing he controls — and has effectively destroyed — another. Perhaps because the playwright uses suicide, a deadly serious problem in contemporary society, first as a source of dark humor and then as a way to reach a happy resolution. And possibly because a plot twist leading to the play’s denouement has been used before in other works of fiction, and I was disappointed to anticipate its use and have that anticipation fulfilled.

I suggest you see Mercy and form your own opinion

This is a strong work, dealing with a realistic situation and creating true-to-life characters performed by a talented cast. Unfortunately, its ending and the way it was reached left me with a sour taste. I suggest you see Mercy and form your own opinion. You will not feel that you have wasted your time.

Mercy is being presented by the New Jersey Repertory Company at the Lumia Theatre in Long Branch through July 15, 2018. For tickets and information, visit njrep.org.