“Offal Endings,” the latest play from Milford’s John Klemeyer (playwright) and Beth Kelley (director), opened on Jan. 12 at the Studio Theater at Theater Row to a sold-out audience who was at once astonished, stunned, and riveted to their seats.
“Klemeyer’s plays are usually ripped from the headlines and are always provocative,” Kelley said.
“Offal Endings” is a dystopian dark comedy about the near immediate future of privatized assisted suicide with government and media complicity. It’s a world where organ replacement and body parts are advertised during baseball games and where suicide hot lines are transformed into for-profit ventures. In this world, young people are committing their internal organs for sale – to be removed just before they reach a vegetative brain-dead state. They often do this for money for their families or just because they’ve had enough.
“Told with humor verging on the necessary ridiculousness for such a topic, Offal Endings shines a serious light on changes to our healthcare system, government regulation of our own bodies, and on corporate success at any cost,” Klemeyer said.
One example of this Mel Brooks-type of dark humor is when life-weary Joshua and Mary must find a way to envision a brighter future while evading the fine print of a contract to which they have signed away their lives. Joshua looks at the menu to only find liver ... his. And, after Mary and he fight back, the corporation is not about to roll over. They wonder if they are destined for the butcher block or whether they can somehow survive the surgeon’s blade.
One act, but 15 scenes
The title of the play, “Offal Endings” meaning the internal organs of an animal used as food, is a pun on the concept of these awful acts ending in suicide.
The play is one act, but has 15 scenes where the main character’s view of suicide transforms as the play develops. He is severely depressed, but then also explores a dating app.
“It was a great experience to build characters from the ground up,” Kelley said.
“The weight of the issue itself changes his points of view,” added Klemeyer.
‘Nerves that need to be touched’
The playwright said he is really concerned about the rise in medically assisted suicides today, especially among young people who are feeling the brunt of the burden of social injustices, and uses the play to bring these issues to life.
“The play is not a documentary, but a touching story that needs to be told,” he said. “It touches nerves that need to be touched.”
At times, one could hear the exclamation “Oh, my God” almost in unison coming from the audience.
“The ending is upbeat and hopeful, yet with a tragic overtone,” Klemeyer said.
The quintessential brilliance of the ending is that it is left ambiguous. It doesn’t provide answers, it just raises really important questions.