Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

A Question of Mercy

by David Rabe

“Beautifully considered, piercingly clear-eyed . . . Mr. Rabe, in a play that reestablishes him as one of America’s preeminent dramatists . . . has written an exquisitely controlled about what will forever lie beyond human control.” –Ben Brantley, The New York Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date February 16, 1998
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3549-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

David Rabe is one of America’s finest dramatists. In A Question of Mercy, he explores the controversial and emotional issue of euthanasia, delving deep into the ties that bind friends and lovers.

Thomas and Anthony are lovers struggling with Anthony’s final, exhausting battle with AIDS. Joined by their friend Susanah and a retired doctor, whose help Thomas has requested , they fashion a heartbreaking friendship as they work through the stages of a plan to relieve Anthony of his illness and his life. Each character does battle with the moral and legal issues that attend the decision to help Anthony die—is this murder or mercy? Rabe creates a passionate depiction of four people confronted with the reality of a loved one’s fight with death, and a compelling dramatic event that poses the question: “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?”


“Beautifully considered, piercingly clear-eyed . . . Mr. Rabe, in a play that reestablishes him as one of America’s preeminent dramatists . . . has written an exquisitely controlled about what will forever lie beyond human control.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“A gripping new drama . . . Rabe’s provocative tale is an affirmation of dignity that rings clear and true.”—Robert L. Daniels, Variety

“A powerful event.”—Richard Zoglin, Time



The set is a raised, raked platform surrounded by a ground-level alley that runs along stage right and left and across the front. The backdrop is abstract. Perhaps it suggests an urban skyline. Downstage left on the ground-floor ramp stands a table with a phone on it.

There is music and a dreamy kind of light on DR. ROBERT CHAPMAN as he enters upstage left. He’s in his forties, tall, and he walks down toward the table and chair. He wears an overcoat, which he unbuttons, then removes. He looks out to the audience, taking them in. He speaks as if making a formal presentation on a supremely important issue.

DR. CHAPMAN: This overcoat–my overcoat was given to me ten–no. He’s twenty-three now and he was ” so it’s ” my overcoat is fifteen years old. It was a Christmas gift from my nephew. I’m sure it was really my sister who purchased it. But my nephew was the bearer, his little face a bright bulb above the festive package as he raced across the room.

(Slightly puzzled, but still grand, he continues.) I don’t know why I’m saying this. But I wear it–the overcoat–when I go out in cold weather. (With the overcoat in one hand, he turns to a pair of pajamas on the chair.) These are my pajamas. (Grabbing them up.) At night, I wear them. They provide a kind of consoling formality. (He holds the pajamas in one hand, the overcoat in the other, both arms outstretched as he weighs the garments, his arms shifting like scales.) The boundary, the demarcation between waking and sleeping, between thought and dreams, benefits, I believe, from such an acknowledgment–a gesture of respect, of emphasis, I think.

The phone rings. The backdrop holds a projection, narrow and clear: JANUARY 9, 1990.

DR. CHAPMAN picks up a nearby leather-bound appointment book and looks at it. The phone rings again. He looks at it, grabs it up.


VOICE: Dr. Robert Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: Who is this?

VOICE: This is Thomas Ames. We met at the–at the fundraiser for–

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh, yes, of course.

THOMAS: Do you remember me?

Now on the stage right area, lights find THOMAS AMES, standing alone with a phone in his hand. He is handsome, slim, in his thirties.

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes, yes, at the Levines’ house. For the Franklin Coalition.

THOMAS: I was wondering if we might–I hate to intrude, but would you have time for a cup of coffee in the next few days? I wouldn’t take much of your time. But there’s something I need to discuss, and the phone doesn’t seem quite appropriate, but–

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, I’m actually quite busy.

THOMAS: I mean, I could do it on the phone, but–

DR. CHAPMAN: What am I saying? Of course. A cup of coffee? Tomorrow morning?

THOMAS: I’ll come to your neighborhood. Just name a place.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, the Beacon is quite close by.

THOMAS: Oh, yes. Of course. I know it. What time shall we say?

DR. CHAPMAN: Is ten good for you?

THOMAS: Fine. Perfect. I’ll see you then.

DR. CHAPMAN: I look forward to it.

DR. CHAPMAN stands looking at the phone in his hand.

THOMAS (as the lights take him out of view): Good-bye. On the screen above and behind DR. CHAPMAN is projected: JANUARY 10, 1990.

DR. CHAPMAN (leafing through pages in his appointment book): January eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh. They flow by. A haze. A confident haze. A sense of will. Intention. My life. I will do this. I will do that.

As the lights come up on the stage right area, we see THOMAS seated at a table with a flowered tablecloth spread over it. A pot of coffee stands on the table; there are two cups and saucers and some Danish on a plate, awaiting DR. CHAPMAN.

THOMAS (waving toward DR. CHAPMAN): Dr. Chapman! Here! Here I am!

DR. CHAPMAN waves back and heads to the table.

DR. CHAPMAN: Thomas, hello. Sorry I’m late.

THOMAS: No, no, I arrived a little early, I think.

DR. CHAPMAN: How are you? Busy, I bet.

THOMAS: Oh, yes. (Gesturing toward the coffee, the plate of Danish.) I took the liberty of ordering coffee and some Danish for us. I hope that’s all right.

DR. CHAPMAN: As long as there’s blueberry. Have you seen the Levines’ recently? (He seeks amid the Danish.)

THOMAS: No, no–not for some weeks now.

DR. CHAPMAN: I haven’t either. I should call them. For a slight uneasy pause, they look around.

THOMAS: This is awkward–isn’t it. I’m sorry.

DR. CHAPMAN: And slightly mysterious, I must admit.

THOMAS: I’m ” how shall I put this? It’s just that I felt in our conversation at the Levines’ that day–we ended up in a small group, do you remember?


THOMAS: I mean, I don’t even remember the subject under discussion, but what I do remember emphatically was that something in your manner–it could have been something you said, an opinion you expressed. Anyway, what happened is I came away with the impression that you would be sympathetic to the issue about which–the issue that prompted my call–and of course I could be wrong, but–goodness, I don’t feel I’m handling this at all well, but you’re a doctor, right?

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, I was. I don’t practice anymore, if you’re–

THOMAS: But you’re still licensed, aren’t you? You are still licensed.

DR. CHAPMAN: So this is a medical matter?

THOMAS: Well, yes.

DR. CHAPMAN: Are you ill?

THOMAS: It’s not me. It’s a friend of mine. Though I’m certainly involved. A dear friend. It’s AIDS. He has AIDS.


THOMAS: He was HIV for so many years, it all seemed–everything just seemed–it seemed ” ! We were lulled into a kind of expectation that this almost normal health would just simply go on and on, but then it all changed. Seven months ago we went from our lives into–into–a nightmare.

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m not a doctor anymore. I don’t treat patients.

THOMAS: Well, I mean, treatment is not exactly what we were–what he and I were discussing.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, treatment is what I administered as a doctor.

THOMAS: He thought you might–that you might be willing–he wanted me to ask if you would be willing to consider helping him.

DR. CHAPMAN: Help him in what way?

THOMAS: Well, if you would be willing to intervene on his behalf.

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t understand, Thomas.

THOMAS: If you would intervene.

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m not practicing medicine at the moment, Thomas. (Glancing at his watch.) And I’m afraid I took you quite literally regarding the time we’d need for this cup of coffee. I have to get back to my office.

As DR. CHAPMAN rises:

THOMAS: Well ” I see. ”

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m sorry about your friend. I wish you the best of luck.

As DR. CHAPMAN turns and leaves, THOMAS watches him. The lights fade on THOMAS and focus on DR. CHAPMAN, who steps downstage, facing out. He opens his appointment book. Projected on the screen is: JANUARY 11, 1990.

DR. CHAPMAN: It says in my appointment calendar that later today I have to go to the dentist for a checkup. He has a new nurse whom I find annoying, but–well–it says, “Tomatoes. Onions. Peppers. Et cetera.” The “et cetera” meaning additional vegetables. (He turns a page.) I’ve enrolled in a cooking course at the ” well ” I might as well admit it: the Learning Annex. (He smiles.) The first class is tonight. And the truth is, I’m looking forward to it.

The phone starts to ring. Annoyed, DR. CHAPMAN looks at it.

DR. CHAPMAN: How it intrudes. The ringing telephone and the course of our thoughts, the flow of our own intentions is cut off. We answer it, and most of the time it’s a minor tug, easily incorporated. And if we didn’t answer, might the caller just disappear? Might he never call back? (Picking up phone.) Hello!

The lights come up on THOMAS and ANTHONY center stage in a fragmentary depiction of their apartment. They sit beside each other on the couch. THOMAS talks on the phone. ANTHONY sits on the couch. A short, delicate man with black, close-cropped hair, a neatly trimmed black beard, ANTHONY is also in his thirties; although extremely pale, he is surprisingly unwasted.

THOMAS: Dr. Chapman. This is Thomas Ames. I’m sorry to bother you, but my friend–the friend I mentioned–he insisted that I call you. When I described our conversation in the coffee shop, he felt I had been too oblique. As THOMAS talks, DR. CHAPMAN, phone to ear, listens, idly leafing through pages in a cookbook.

THOMAS: He’s quite annoyed with me because he feels I failed–that, given my annoyingly inveterate allegiance to discretion, I failed to convey the real nature of what I was saying. Or trying to say. He said I must speak to you again, and I must be candid.

DR. CHAPMAN: I think I understood you, Thomas.

THOMAS: I know. I know you did. This is really more about him and me–our relationship, but he has things he feels I must say directly before he can believe that we’ve made our best effort in your direction. If you could indulge us just for a, for a–they’re tormenting him, these things, and he has enough tormenting him. So if you could indulge me for just a moment.

DR. CHAPMAN: I was about to go out, but I have a minute.

THOMAS: Thank you, thank you. He wanted me to tell you that he’s my lover–that’s the first thing he wanted to make absolutely clear–that he is not just some casual acquaintance or even just a friend, but we live together, have lived together for seven and a half years. And the second thing is that he’s suffering terribly–it’s really pretty far along and it was in the midst of his suffering that your name came up. That it was not casual, because it wasn’t. Nothing about this is casual. I guess I told him about meeting you at the Levines’ and he asked me to call you. This is the first call I’m talking about–the one the other day.


THOMAS: But now, as far as this call is concerned, he’s demanding that I make it unequivocal–that I make it totally clear that when I said “intervene,” if you recall–well, he found that just infuriatingly vague on my part because what he wants is to die. He’s almost always in pain, and he wants to die. And that’s what he sent me to ask you. It’s what I meant by “intervene,” which I thought you understood–but he says, how could you possibly? So he has insisted that I call and ask you if you would help him commit suicide.

DR. CHAPMAN closes the book and sets it on the table.

THOMAS: He wants you to help him die.

ANTHONY: While I still have the strength to do it.

THOMAS (to Anthony): What?

ANTHONY: While I still have the strength to–

THOMAS (into phone): While he still has the strength to do it.

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m sorry, but that’s not possible.


DR. CHAPMAN: That’s all. I’m sorry.

THOMAS: This is a horrible disease, Doctor. Have you seen anyone with it?

DR. CHAPMAN: My training, my thinking, my philosophy have all been directed toward the preservation of life–that’s what I did, what I wanted to do, and–

ANTHONY: Ask him if he thinks a doctor’s purpose is to lessen misfortune or to prolong it as long as possible.

THOMAS (into the phone): Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

DR. CHAPMAN: What? Are you talking to me?

THOMAS (to Anthony): He says he can’t help us, Anthony.

ANTHONY: But why?

THOMAS: His philosophy. His training. His thinking–I don’t know.

ANTHONY: What did he say?

THOMAS (into phone): Dr. Chapman. He needs help. He’s asking for help to lessen his pain. Isn’t that your task, your oath as a doctor?

DR. CHAPMAN: No. In fact, it isn’t. There are laws, Thomas, there’s society. I’m not a barbarian.

THOMAS: But to let him suffer like this–that’s the very word he uses about it. To let him suffer like this is the act of a barbarian!

ANTHONY: Don’t insult him. Why are you insulting him?

THOMAS: I’m not.

ANTHONY: You just called him a “barbarian.”

THOMAS: Well, he–I–

ANTHONY: Apologize.

THOMAS (into phone): Could you come and talk to us about it all, at least? I think, if you did that, we might be able to see it your way.

ANTHONY: I know what I want, Thomas.

THOMAS (into phone): Could you at least do that, Dr. Chapman? Visit us. If you could counsel us. If you could talk to him. I don’t really want him to do it either. Perhaps that’s all he needs–all we both need–someone to talk to us from your perspective. If you spent some time with Anthony and me, so that–

ANTHONY: Let me talk to him.

THOMAS: Anthony wants to talk to you. All right?


THOMAS: All right.

ANTHONY takes the phone.

ANTHONY: I implore you, Dr. Chapman. I implore you. Do you hear me?

DR. CHAPMAN (lowering phone, looking out): “I implore you,” he says. “I implore you.” And I feel I must meet him. I wanted to meet–no. To see him. (Looking at the phone.) It’s startling the way his voice reaches out through this object in my–

ANTHONY: Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN (intophone): All right. Tuesday. (He hangs up.) Lights sweep THOMAS and ANTHONY away. DR. CHAPMAN stands alone. Music plays in the background.

DR. CHAPMAN (putting on his coat, his scarf): Ambivalence is an equal pull in opposing directions, and so each year I renew the license that allows me to prescribe narcotics. The drugs he implored me to provide are drugs I can easily acquire. Because his desire is not a stranger to me. I mean, I’ve thought that I might want to prescribe such pills to myself someday. To relieve pain or to end my own life, should the need arise. I’ve thought of it. I’ve thought of it often, but it’s always been slightly distanced. A principled matter. A theoretical option. But then the pain in his voice burst through, and I thought, My life is good. I’m healthy. More or less happy. If I would do it for myself, why not for him?

The lights take DR. CHAPMAN away, and projected on the screen is: JANUARY 16, 1990.

On the stage left corner of the ramp, a DOORMAN clutches a package wrapped in brown paper as he talks on the intercom phone.

DOORMAN: Sure, Mrs. Waxman, I’ll make certain Tommy knows to hold this for UPS in the morning. When he comes on at midnight, I will leave no doubt about the importance of this package. And he will convey that importance to Edgar first thing in the morning.

As DR. CHAPMAN approaches, crossing along the downstage ramp:

DOORMAN: No, no. No problem, Mrs. Waxman. Listen, could you hold on a second? Just a second.

THE DOORMAN puts his hand over the phone and steps in front of DR. CHAPMAN.

DOORMAN: Dr. Chapman?


DOORMAN: It’s me, Dr. Chapman. Eddie Ruggerio, remember me? (As DR. CHAPMAN stares.) You took my gallbladder out!

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. Eddie. Eddie! My goodness. Hello! As they shake hands:

DOORMAN: I compliment you all the time, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: Eddie. How are you?

DOORMAN: I tell everybody you did an incredible job, because you did. What else am I gonna tell them, right? The scar has all but disappeared. Look. (Pulling his jacket open, his shirt up, showing the faint scar.) I gotta point it out to people or nobody sees it. Do you see it?

He points and DR. CHAPMAN looks.

DOORMAN: I could be in a beauty pageant. Right? If I was a beauty. (Back to the intercom phone.) Mrs. Waxman–that doctor I’m always telling you about. He’s here. ” Right! ” Yes! The gallbladder Svengali. He’s right here standing in front of me. He’s one great surgeon, Mrs. Waxman, if you need anything. ” That’s right.

DR. CHAPMAN: Actually, I’m not practicing at the moment, Eddie.

DOORMAN: What? You’ve retired? Oh, no. No, no. How could you? Look at you, you’re in the prime of life, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s sad but true, Eddie, I guess.

DOORMAN (into phone): He’s retired, Mrs. Waxman. ” Yes, it is too bad. That’s just what I said.” He’s the best, though. The best ever. (Returning to DR. CHAPMAN.) I’m sorry. You have friends here?

DR. CHAPMAN: Thomas Ames is a friend of mine.

DOORMAN: Oh, yes. Ten-C. Well, great to see you.

DR. CHAPMAN: Great to see you, Eddie.

As DR. CHAPMAN moves along the ramp to the upstage left corner of the raked platform, the DOORMAN talks on the phone.

DOORMAN: He’s a miracle man, Mrs. Waxman. I mean, next time you’re down here, I’ll show you the scar. But it’s nothing. A wrinkle.

A doorbell rings. In their apartment, THOMAS moves to the door. ANTHONY waits on the couch.

DOORMAN (into phone): And he did it with a knife, Mrs. Waxman. With a knife.

As the lights sweep EDDIE away, DR. CHAPMAN steps up onto the raked platform.

THOMAS: Hello.

DR. CHAPMAN: Hello, Thomas.

THOMAS: Come in, come in. Is it snowing? It’s still snowing.

DR. CHAPMAN: Very lightly, but–yes.

THOMAS: Let me take your coat.

THOMAS takes DR. CHAPMAN’s coat and lays it over a chair upstage.

DR. CHAPMAN: Do you know–just now, the doorman–it was such a coincidence.

THOMAS: Eddie?

DR. CHAPMAN: He was a former patient of mine.

THOMAS: Really.

DR. CHAPMAN: I took his gallbladder out.

THOMAS has moved to stand behind ANTHONY, who sits on an invalid’s cushion on the couch. He presents ANTHONY to DR. CHAPMAN.

THOMAS: This is Anthony. It’s still snowing, Anthony. Anthony loves the snow. He’s from Colombia.

ANTHONY: But please don’t conclude I spent my childhood following burros up mountains looking for coffee beans. As ANTHONY, grinning, half rises, extends his hand:

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no. Please. Don’t get up.

They shake hands; ANTHONY settles back on his cushion.

ANTHONY: I find a certain magic in the snow–as if it is not quite real. I saw very little snow.

DR. CHAPMAN: Except in the mountains.

ANTHONY: Well, yes, the mountains. But I didn’t grow up in the mountains. From offstage, a teakettle whistles. On the coffee table in front of the couch sits a plate of cookies.

THOMAS: I was just brewing some tea. Would you like some tea?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes, that would be fine.

THOMAS: I have herbal and regular.

ANTHONY: Many kinds of herbal tea.

DR. CHAPMAN: I think I’d like regular.

As THOMAS darts into the kitchen, ANTHONY pats the couch for DR. CHAPMAN to sit beside him.

ANTHONY: Would you like a cookie? They’re chocolate chip. (He picks up a cookie.) Thomas made them today. They’re fresh.

DR. CHAPMAN: Thank you.

DR. CHAPMAN selects a cookie and takes a bite. As ANTHONY waits awkwardly, he surveys the apartment.

ANTHONY: We’ve been here five years.

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s a beautiful apartment.

ANTHONY: So many things we had to–not fix, but adapt to our own taste after moving in. And there was never enough money. Our tastes have blended very nicely, don’t you think?

DR. CHAPMAN: It appears the work of a single mind.

THOMAS comes hurrying in with a tray bearing a teapot, milk, sugar, and Equal. He pours tea for DR. CHAPMAN.

ANTHONY: He likes the decor, Thomas.

DR. CHAPMAN (rising, pacing, surveying): You must have had a decorator help you.

ANTHONY: No, no, this is our own–our mutual expression.

THOMAS: Sugar?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes. And a little milk.

THOMAS (starting to pour): Say when? Personally, I like–(Stopping.) You could pour it yourself if you preferred.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well ” no. You go right ahead.

THOMAS: We have Equal, if you–

DR. CHAPMAN: No. No, thank you. I prefer sugar. Particularly with chocolate chip cookies. (As he takes a bite.) They’re delicious. You made them?

THOMAS (as he sits): Yes. I must confess.

For a beat, they all nibble cookies, sip tea.

THOMAS: Well. (He takes a breath.) Would you care for a little–(Smiling, shrugging at his own nervousness, he tries for a little joke.) I don’t know what. I’ve offered all that we have.

He’s interrupted as ANTHONY returns his partly eaten cookie to the table.

THOMAS: Don’t you like it?

ANTHONY: No, no, it’s delicious.

THOMAS: Then eat it, please.

ANTHONY: It’s the diarrhea, Thomas. I’m afraid to have too much. I–but it tasted delicious. You go ahead.

DR. CHAPMAN: Your diarrhea is bad?

ANTHONY: Savage.

THOMAS: He suffers terribly.

DR. CHAPMAXN: Is there no relief? Have you tried–

ANTHONY: We’ve tried everything.

THOMAS: It only seems to get worse.

ANTHONY: I’m tired. Always. And it has no pleasure in it, this tiredness, like the exhaustion from a game, or work. The exhaustion of life has a certain pleasure. You feel a kind of vitality rekindling itself. This is something else deep inside me. It empties me, this weariness. There’s no rest for it. It leaves me depressed when I was never depressed in my life. Never. And this. (He points to a place between his nose and his eye.) Yesterday, this showed up. Popping out of me.

DR. CHAPMAN (leaning in, examining): I noticed.

ANTHONY: He noticed, Thomas. And you told me they were less conspicuous. Kaposi’s sarcoma and its tasteless little parade of fucking tumors.

THOMAS points to ANTHONY’s cheek, where a sore seeps out from the beard.

THOMAS: There’s another.

ANTHONY: A new one?

THOMAS: I think so. Is that one, Dr. Chapman?


ANTHONY: The beard cannot hide them all. (Suddenly, he groans and clutches his abdomen.) Ohhh, Thomas, I must go to the bath–help me, quickly. (He tries to get up, then sags back.) Ohhhhh. Dammit. Dammit. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I have gone in my pants. Such a foul odor. Instantly. Rot. I am rot inside. The hemorrhoids burn. I must go change. (He looks at DR. CHAPMAN coldly.) I want to die.

DR. CHAPMAN: Is it so bad?

ANTHONY: Do you have to ask? (Whirling to THOMAS.) He asks! (Then back to DR. CHAPMAN.) Yes. (And again to THOMAS.) Take me to the bedroom to change. I want him to see me naked. Then he will know. Will you come with us, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: Today you want to die, but in a few days, or a few hours even, you may–

ANTHONY: Wait and look. Then talk to me about tomorrow. (He tries to get to his feet.)

THOMAS (helping): He’s very upset.

ANTHONY: Of course I’m upset. Just help me, just help me. No, no, wait. (He sags back onto the couch.) I’m woozy. “Woozy.” What a word. Woozy. Woozy. Woozy. I am woozy and I may puke. But I want you to see. In a minute.

DR. CHAPMAN: All right.

ANTHONY: I wear a diaper. I want you to see–I wear a diaper. It is humiliating. But I want you to see. I am sores. I am nothing. You must see. Sores and shit. And blood.

DR. CHAPMAN: Are there no good days? You have no relief?

ANTHONY: Sleep. When I sleep. The hours of sleep are good, and so I think of dying. It’s the forgetfulness that makes me want to–that teaches me to die. I am not a man who would have ever thought of such a thing–to take my life. Never before this. Never! My life was my treasure. But it’s gone. Taken from me.

THOMAS: I have to wash you–I have to clean you.


THOMAS: Come. Now. Can we go now.

ANTHONY: All right. (He rises, with THOMAS’s help.)

THOMAS: Come along.

They make their way upstage, passing DR. CHAPMAN.

ANTHONY: Two woozy friends. (ANTHONY falters.) Owww, owww, owww.

THOMAS: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

ANTHONY: I know, I know. Owww, owww. Ohhhhhhhh.

THOMAS: I’m so sorry.

At the edge of the stage, THOMAS and ANTHONY stop in shadows, leaning against each other. DR. CHAPMAN faces out in a narrowing pool of light.

DR. CHAPMAN: I followed them into their bedroom where Anthony lay on his side on the bed, offering his lesions to me as evidence. I stared. His anus was a large circular ulceration, oozing blood. His buttocks were smeared with pus and liquid stool. Tenderly, Thomas bathed him and dressed him in a fresh diaper, and I watched. Even though I had been summoned there, I felt a kind of voyeur. I felt rude and unnecessary and indecent.

As the lights come back up, THOMAS and ANTHONY separate and look downstage at DR. CHAPMAN.

THOMAS: He knows now, Anthony.

ANTHONY: Does he?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes. Are there no good days?

ANTHONY: This is a good day. Because you are here this is a wonderful day. A ” (He curses exuberantly in Spanish.) ” day!

DR. CHAPMAN stares at ANTHONY, who moves to settle onto the couch.

THOMAS: Would you like another cup of tea, Dr. Chapman?


THOMAS: I could make some coffee.


As DR. CHAPMAN settles in the chair adjacent to the couch, ANTHONY motions for THOMAS to join him on the couch.

THOMAS (settling on the couch): Another cookie?


ANTHONY: A friend in Colombia, a doctor friend, is mailing what I have been told is to be a lethal dose of barbiturates. They will arrive soon.


ANTHONY: But what I fear is that something could go wrong and I would–I would–

THOMAS: It might not work.

ANTHONY: Dr. Nagle at the clinic refuses to advise me–he won’t even talk to me about it.

THOMAS: There are so many patients.

ANTHONY: When all I want is to be able to be certain some-how that it not fail.

THOMAS: He worries that he won’t do it right.

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s actually quite difficult to do correctly.

THOMAS: But what could be so hard? Don’t you just take them?

ANTHONY: That’s what I’m frightened of. It has to be ” difficult. That’s why I desire assistance. Someone to help me, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: I know that’s what you think you want, Anthony.

ANTHONY: But if someone was with me to inject an additional dose into me ” a fatal dose ” if the pills failed.

DR. CHAPMAN: I can’t do that. That’s not why I’m here, Anthony. I’m here to discuss certain things–I mean, perhaps I could teach you the proper way to take the pills.

ANTHONY: Yes. Yes.

THOMAS: But don’t you just take them?

ANTHONY: I’ve been trying to tell you, Thomas–the body fights, the body is a deceiver. That’s why I must have help–and I must do it soon, while I have the strength and courage, and I must have Thomas with me. That’s why he must be there, holding me. So I have the courage. We have discussed these matters, and he wants to be with me. Would you approve of that, Dr. Chapman? That I have company? (Turning to THOMAS.) And he must not cry. You must promise not to cry.

THOMAS: But that’s not fair. It’s not fair to ask me not to cry.

ANTHONY: I couldn’t bear it if you cried.

THOMAS: What if I just–if it just happens?

ANTHONY: I make this request to you. You must discipline yourself.

THOMAS: He can’t make me promise that, can he, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t think, Anthony, that a person’s emotions can be promised in such circumstances. You can ask him to be with you, and to do his best not to cry, but more than that–well, it’s the kind of thing, Anthony, that if he did promise, he would be lying. You can ask him to promise that he will try. He can promise to try, but–

ANTHONY: Will you promise to try?

THOMAS: I won’t be able to do it.

ANTHONY: But will you try?

THOMAS (leaping up, turning away, enraged): It’s so awful. The whole thing. I hate the whole thing; it makes me furious. Honest to God.

Beeping offstage.

ANTHONY: My pill.

THOMAS hurries off the upstage right corner.

THOMAS: Yes. Yes.

DR. CHAPMAN: What is it you’re taking?

ANTHONY: I take everything, Doctor. This one is for pain. But I have chests and dressers full of pills. Jewel cases. They are my jewels.

THOMAS (as he returns with a pill and a glass of water): We’ve tried everything–every experimental drug and protocol for the diarrhea, but nothing works.

ANTHONY: And the chemotherapy seems to assist the tumors. They flourish in it. My mouth is covered with them. Look.

ANTHONY opens his mouth, and DR. CHAPMAN looks inside.

THOMAS: I think they were actually quite a bit worse several days ago. I know you’ve nothing to compare them to, but they have in fact to some degree–diminished.

ANTHONY (reaching to taice THOMAS’s hand): Thomas believes in God, don’t you, Thomas. (Kissing the hand.) He prays.

DR. CHAPMAN: Do you pray, Anthony?

ANTHONY: Nothing can happen to me now, Dr. Chapman, except my death. It is the only act of significance left for me that I can dictate, that I can choose. To pick the time and method. To defy this monster. To say, I, Anthony, live. And now I do this thing that you, Death, have so far failed to do. I will do it! At this moment, Dr. Chapman, I am still able. But soon it will be beyond me. Then I will be the victim in every way.

DR. CHAPMAN: But you see, the thing is that it’s not–how can I say this? Death–actual death is not something–you see, what you do, what you’re thinking, is you take the pills–and that is what you do–you’re right. You take the pills. But that’s not death. You can’t do it. It’s never ours to govern. You do something–but you do not do IT. You take pills, and death occurs. But–

ANTHONY (leaning in): You’re going to do it, aren’t you. You’re going to help me.

DR. CHAPMAN rises, pacing away from them.

DR. CHAPMAN: The barbiturates coming from Colombia are what kind?

ANTHONY: Bellergals. A hundred milligrams. I have been guaranteed at least a hundred pills. They will arrive soon. (Moving after DR. CHAPMAN.) Tell me you’re going to do it, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: Have you discussed this with anyone else? I mean, these ideas?


ANTHONY: Well, of course with some–a few people.

DR. CHAPMAN: I think it would be wise to limit the number–the people who might know. To keep it confined.

THOMAS: Are you worried about the police?

ANTHONY: We’ve only told a few people.

DR. CHAPMAN: Tell no one else.


ANTHONY: We won’t.

THOMAS: We could go to jail, couldn’t we. If–I mean, if we actually–if you–

DR. CHAPMAN: I think we should be very careful. There are those who would rush to punish us.

THOMAS: I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never broken the law. Because that’s what we’ll be doing. We’ll be breaking the law. And, I mean, we could be caught. We’d be accomplices or something then, Dr. Chapman–is that right?

ANTHONY: I don’t think Dr. Chapman is worried about that.

THOMAS: Of course he is, and I am too. Because I’m the sole beneficiary in Anthony’s will. Do you see what I mean, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: Is that right, Anthony?

THOMAS: If I receive everything he has, and there’s any suspicion, wouldn’t that–?

ANTHONY: I want you to have my possessions.

THOMAS: I know, but it could look as if–

ANTHONY: I want to talk about this later, Thomas. This is not pertinent to the things I need to straighten out with Dr.–

THOMAS: I know that. But I’m not talking about you at this particular instant. You won’t be a part of this if we’re caught, because you won’t be here anymore. You’ll be–


THOMAS: He just doesn’t have any idea how this is for me. Because it’s worse for him, I know it is–but it’s SOMETHING for me. And he acts sometimes like it’s NOTHING–like I don’t have my own feelings about all this. So he wants me with him when it happens, and I want that too–I want to be with him. But I’ve never seen anyone die.

DR. CHAPMAN: Of course.

THOMAS: And he forbids me to cry. I can’t be there feeling that I’m doing something wrong, that I’m ruining everything if I have emotions that I can’t control.

DR. CHAPMAN: Of course not. You see that, Anthony, don’t you?

THOMAS: I mean, if I’m there, and I’m holding you and you die–do you understand what I mean?

ANTHONY: You’re right, Thomas–I’m sorry, I lose track. I’m sorry. I’m self-absorbed.

As ANTHONY moves back, THOMAS eases to him and touches him, embraces him.

THOMAS: And why wouldn’t you be? He suffers so. How could he not be? I understand that. But still–still–there are other things.

ANTHONY: You’re right, Thomas. You’re right. I’m sorry.

THOMAS: You don’t have to be sorry. Why should you be sorry?As they embrace, DR. CHAPMAN turns and strides upstage toward his coat, which is draped over a chair. THOMAS looks, then sees where DR. CHAPMAN is going.

THOMAS: Are you going?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes, I think ”

THOMAS: Let me help you with your coat.

ANTHONY coughs as THOMAS hurries to retrieve the coat and DR. CHAPMAN moves to ANTHONY.

DR. CHAPMAN: All those people that you’ve told what you’re contemplating–try not to talk to them anymore.


DR. CHAPMAN: And, I’m thinking, Anthony, do you have a good lawyer?

ANTHONY: Yes. Very much so.

DR. CHAPMAN: Because you should arrange a codicil to your will requesting that there be no autopsy.

ANTHONY: I knew you’d decide to help me. I was right, wasn’t I.

DR. CHAPMAN: I will help you, Anthony. But not to the extent you want.

ANTHONY: Please.

THOMAS: You mustn’t count on that, Anthony. You’ll only be disappointed.

ANTHONY reaches and takes DR. CHAPMAN’s hand.

ANTHONY: Dr. Chapman. You asked, Do I pray? Now I pray to you. Don’t be troubled. You will be the instrument that I will use. That’s all. Think of it that way. You are an instrument. No more; no less. I will use you. For my rescue. (He kisses DR. CHAPMAN’s hand; he kisses the buttons on DR. CHAPMAN’s coat sleeve.) For my rescue. THOMAS stands watching, as DR. CHAPMAN and ANTHONYstudy each other, and the emotion between them. DR. CHAPMAN steps away, heads for the door.

DR. CHAPMAN: Good night.

THOMAS: Good night.

ANTHONY: Thank you, Dr. Chapman.

The lights dim on ANTHONY and THOMAS, as DR. CHAPMAN, alone now on the upstage left corner of the ramp, faces out. Music plays in the background.

DR. CHAPMAN: An instrument. He wants me to become his instrument. (Walking downstage.) Anthony’s instrument. Then I would be–what would I be? A means for him–this other person–this Anthony to enact his will? (Crossing the front of the stage, he moves to his chair and phone.) Like a forceps or a scalpel when I held them. He wants me to be that simple. As for my own feelings? Ignore them. Regarding my reservations–that uneasy murmuring just beyond the horizon of my thoughts–ignore that too. Governed only by his aims, I would be like the scalpel, innocent and free of being what I am, a man. A loud blast of amplified sound: a radio sportscaster covering hockey. The lights take DR. CHAPMAN into dark. The slide comes on: JANUARY 24, 1990.

On the stage left corner, the DOORMAN is sweeping with a large push broom across the front of the stage.

VOICE OF SPORTSCASTER: Skating four on four. Leetch feeds the puck to Turcotte. He’s got it. Slides it to Gartner.

DOORMAN: Attaboy, Garty. You’re the boss, Garty, show them why!

VOICE OF SPORTSCASTER: He’s looking. He’s waiting. Back to Turcotte. He’s looking. Fires a shot, off the stick. Rebound. Shot by Gartner.

DOORMAN (stops sweeping, struggling to help the team): C’mon, c’mon!

VOICE OF SPORTSCASTER: Stick save. Long rebound to the wing! Leetch is there. He sends a blast. It’s off the post.


DR. CHAPMAN walks past the DOORMAN, who looks up.

DOORMAN: Hey, Doc. Leetch just missed off the post.

DR. CHAPMAN (seeing Eddie): Oh. Eddie. Hello.

DOORMAN: Can you believe it?

DR. CHAPMAN: Who missed?

DOORMAN: Leetch! Can you believe it?

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh. Too bad.

DR. CHAPMAN moves on along the ramp, heading upstage to the stage left corner, with the DOORMAN trailing along behind him, sweeping.

DOORMAN: Too bad? Doc, no, no, “too bad” doesn’t cover it. This isn’t too bad. This is a catastrophe. It’s a hex. The franchise is hexed. I’m hexed.

As a doorbell rings loudly, the DOORMAN wheels offstage, and DR. CHAPMAN steps up onto the raked platform where ANTHONY waits near the couch.

ANTHONY: Buenos dias, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: Hello, Anthony.

ANTHONY steps toward DR. CHAPMAN and takes DR.CHAPMAN’s coat. ANTHONY is in pain, which he makes little effortto conceal. He drops the coat, and DR. CHAPMAN bends to pick it up.

DR. CHAPMAN: There, there. I’ll get that.

ANTHONY: No, no.

They are almost struggling over the fallen coat, as THOMAS comes out of the bedroom, buttoning his jacket. He races toward them.

THOMAS: I’m sorry, I haven’t left yet–I know you said you needed to see Anthony alone, but I–anyway, I’ll be out of here in a moment.

DR. CHAPMAN: I thought some things might be simpler if Anthony and I could–

THOMAS: Fine, fine. Whatever.

DR. CHAPMAN: It has to do with my sense of the doctor–patient relationship, I suppose–that–

THOMAS: You don’t have to explain. Just tell me how long I should stay away.

DR. CHAPMAN: An hour should be sufficient.

THOMAS: Then I’ll just stay out for two hours. In order to make certain I don’t intrude. Good-bye.

He shakes hands with DR. CHAPMAN and then gives ANTHONY a peck on the cheek.

THOMAS: Bye-bye, Anthony.

DR. CHAPMAN: Good-bye.

ANTHONY: Bye-bye.

As he goes out the door, DR. CHAPMAN and ANTHONY face each other.

ANTHONY: I have the barbiturates. (He pulls the vial from his robe.) They arrived from Colombia.

DR. CHAPMAN: Let me take a look.

DR. CHAPMAN takes the pills, studying the vial.

ANTHONY: I hope there’s enough. I have new lesions every day. ANTHONY pulls up his shirt. DR. CHAPMAN looks at the sores, his fingers hesitant to touch the wounds.

ANTHONY: They sprout from me. It is my anger I think that fertilizes them.

DR. CHAPMAN: How are your other symptoms?

ANTHONY: The diarrhea is unrelenting. Are there enough pills?

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. Three-quarters of this bottle, I would think, would deliver a lethal dosage.

ANTHONY: And do I just take them?

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no.

ANTHONY (miming dumping the pills into his mouth): I mean, get them into me quick and fast!

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no, no. That’s what you can’t do–just throw them down. This is the issue we had under discussion the other day, if you recall. At least I alluded to it. Let me get some water, and I’ll try and point out the pitfalls. (He starts for the kitchen, then steps back.) It must be done very carefully. Very consciously. (Heading off to the kitchen.) You must be disciplined. We can’t predict your emotions at that moment. (Talking from off, now.) Certainly I can’t say, and I doubt that even you can anticipate your own state of mind at that moment–when the time actually comes–the turmoil. (Returning.) Or perhaps calm. And your physical condition will be changing as the time passes. That has to be taken into account. Which is why you have to know exactly what to do.

ANTHONY settles on the chair adjacent to the couch, and DR. CHAPMAN settles onto the couch. He holds a glass of water and takes a bottle of aspirin from his pocket.

DR. CHAPMAN: I have some baby aspirin here that I’ll use to show you. And this water.

ANTHONY: I will be your perfect student in this matter, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN scatters a few aspirins on the table.

DR. CHAPMAN: What you must above all do is take little sips and only one pill at a time, or else you will vomit them up. Let me show you. (He carefully places one pill on his tongue, then takes an exaggeratedly tiny little bitty sip of water.) You see? Tiny sips.

ANTHONY: Let me try.

ANTHONY reaches for the glass and one of the spilled pills. Dr Chapman watches closely as ANTHONY takes a pill.

DR. CHAPMAN: Tiny tiny sips. As little water as possible.

As ANTHONY prepares to take a second aspirin:

DR. CHAPMAN: Even less water, Anthony. You must not take them too fast or with too much water. That’s what you have to understand. And yet, you must not go too slowly. That’s the paradox. Because if you go too slowly, if you take too much time, the drug begins to affect you and slow you before you’re finished and then you simply go to sleep without having taken in enough for the cumulative effect to be deadly.

ANTHONY: And then I would just wake up? Just sleep and wake up?

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m afraid so.

ANTHONY: Be rigorous in your instruction, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: Less water. Do it again.

As ANTHONY tries with another aspirin:

DR. CHAPMAN: Rigorous is what you must be, Anthony. Stern with yourself on that night. This is what’s crucial. Little sips at a regular pace.

ANTHONY: Is this good–this pace?

DR. CHAPMAN: I think so. Methodical. Establish a count. Like one, two, three, pill. One, two, three, pill.

ANTHONY: One, two, three–(He pops a pill into his mouth and drinks, then suddenly starts to cough and choke.)

DR. CHAPMAN (leaning in, helping, offering a handkerchief): You must not fill up and vomit. And yet you must not go so slowly that you run the risk of–well–

ANTHONY: Getting “woozy.” And we don’t want that, do we? We don’t want Anthony getting “woozy.”

DR. CHAPMAN: No, we don’t.

ANTHONY: Too “woozy” to kill himself. (Suddenly facing DR. CHAPMAN, imploring him.) Couldn’t you be there with me so you could inject more of the drug if necessary? If I failed, if I fell asleep? (Rising, he rolls up his sleeve, showing his forearm.) I have good veins. Do you see? There are several needle marks, puncture marks–where blood has been drawn. Who would ever notice one more mark in the midst of this mess? It would have to go undetected, wouldn’t it? You would be there then. And if you were there, I would have the courage.

DR. CHAPMAN: Do you have any family in this country?

ANTHONY: Why? Oh, no, no. They’re all in Colombia–in Medell”n. Four sisters, three brothers. They all live in Medell”n.

DR. CHAPMAN: What have you told them?

ANTHONY: Of this? Ohh, nothing. No, no. (He turns away, a little agitated.)

DR. CHAPMAN: You must. You must tell them.

ANTHONY: It isn’t possible, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: Anthony, I must advise you in the strongest terms–you must speak to them.

ANTHONY: They know nothing about my life, my situation–they–

DR. CHAPMAN: None of them?

ANTHONY: One brother, but–well–my mother, you see, she has no formal education, though she is very wise. I think of her as one of the truly wise. And yet we have failed somehow to discuss my life. She knows neither that I am gay nor that I am ill.

DR. CHAPMAN: But that’s all the more reason for you to tell her now. Think through the implications of not telling her. She will conclude that you have committed suicide for some ordinary, petty reason.

ANTHONY: I have written her a letter that will be sent after my death. It will tell of my love for her, and it will thank her for all she has done. But nothing more.

DR. CHAPMAN: I find this very disturbing, Anthony. I hate to contest a point of such an obviously personal nature, but–

ANTHONY: It will be enough. My older brother, Esteban, he is the one who knows that I am gay, and for him it is a disgrace. My death will relieve him. It will verify his point of view. He has forbidden me to tell the others in my family. Esteban, my sisters–and all my brothers, too–they are all living around my mother. There are twelve grandchildren. She will not be alone.

ANTHONY smiles, then looks weary and gestures to the couch on which DR. CHAPMAN sits.

ANTHONY: I must lie down.

DR. CHAPMAN (leaping up guiltily): Of course. I’m sorry. Perhaps I’ve pushed too hard.

ANTHONY: No, no. (He sags onto the couch and lies there.) I just need a moment. There’s wine if you would care for some.

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no. (He stands over Anthony, looking down at him.)

ANTHONY: It’s in the refrigerator. (Playful.) And there’s still some cookies. In the canister by the stove.

DR. CHAPMAN (thinkinghard): Well ” maybe. (Heheads off.)

ANTHONY: Yes, why don’t you. ” I have always counted so much on my spirit. My vigor. I had great energy all my life–a vitality that I could count on. Along with my looks. My looks were my way through the world. I had ” charm.”

As DR. CHAPMAN returns with a cookie and a glass of milk, ANTHONY sits up on the couch.

ANTHONY: Did you find everything?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes. (He settles down on the chair next to the couch; he nibbles his cookie, sips his milk.)

ANTHONY: No, no, no, in Colombia one is better off not to be a homosexual, or at least not to know it if they are. Until I was eight years old or so, I was in such useful ignorance, but then it all changed.

DR. CHAPMAN: You changed at eight?

ANTHONY: Oh, yes. These feelings piercing my childhood, this undeniable attraction to men. It was not so much my self changing, it was more exactly my understanding that changed. A strange blooming in a field of perfect ignorance. I struggled, of course, with the common confusions. Though they scarcely mattered, because it was impossible to express them, these feelings, even if I had understood them fully. Even much later, at the university in Bogota where I went to study, and where I lived for six years, in an apartment with six other male students, I did not express it. It was a quiet student life. We were friends, that’s all. Then I came to New York, lived in freedom.

DR. CHAPMAN: I guess that was a relief for you.

ANTHONY: It was fun. I was a wild boy on the loose at a carnival–I was wild ” and foolish, too, I guess. (Sitting up.) Were you ever a wild boy at the carnival, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: What? Me? No. (Laughs.) Goodness.

ANTHONY: Chasing nurses.

DR. CHAPMAN: You mean around the desk? Like in a cartoon?


DR. CHAPMAN: No. (Laughing softly.) Well ” (Thinking.) ” once.

ANTHONY: I knew it.

DR. CHAPMAN: When–when did you meet Thomas?

ANTHONY: I traveled here to attend NYU. That’s when I met him and fell in love with him. This was in 1980. When my studies were complete we separated for two years, as people do when they misunderstand the deepest design of their lives. But we had the wisdom to stay in contact. Those two years ended, as if they had been imposed and we began to live together. When I fell ill, it was just an infection, I was certain, though I worried about AIDS. I told Thomas at once, and we agreed that we must discontinue sex and so we did. From that day forward, aside from mutual caressing, there has been no sexual contact between us. And this has had its difficulties of course, but they have been of surprisingly little consequence, because, as it turns out, it was not sex that mattered so much between us ever anyway–not really–it was not sex that kept us together, or brought us together in the first place. It was love. Always love.


ANTHONY: Does this embarrass you?


ANTHONY: This intimacy. This ” confession.


ANTHONY: I think it does. What is your first name, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: Robert.

ANTHONY: I thought it was what you wanted, Robert, and so I talked, I mean, of my life; and I wanted that too, a chance for us to know one another better, to know one another in some way, if we are to share the moment–that moment of my death. (Slight pause.) I was right?

DR. CHAPMAN: When would you want this to happen?

ANTHONY: It must be soon. Soon. (Getting to his feet.) Let me–come with me. There’s a calendar here.

He walks upstage to a table. He picks up a desk calendar and studies it.

ANTHONY: We’re in January, so we need some time” all of us ” to prepare. But I don’t dare delay too long or ” (Studying the calendar.) Are you free on February tenth? DR. CHAPMAN takes his pocket calendar out and turns some pages.

ANTHONY: It’s a Saturday. Saturday the tenth of February. It’s far enough away to allow for the necessary.” Well, how does it look to you?

DR. CHAPMAN: The tenth. Yes. I’m free. I have one thing, but I’m sure I can switch it.

ANTHONY: February tenth. It seems all right?

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes. I think so.

ANTHONY: Shall we wait until you’re certain you can change what you have, or–

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no, I can get rid of that.

ANTHONY: So we have a date?

DR. CHAPMAN: We have a date.

They close the books.

ANTHONY: You should talk now. You should tell me of yourself. So I know who it is I am to die with.

DR. CHAPMAN: I have not agreed to be with you, Anthony. I have not agreed to administer a shot. Have you misunderstood?

ANTHONY: Then why did we pick the day? A day that would be good for both of us?

DR. CHAPMAN (moving away): We were just picking the day. So you would know. So you could prepare.

ANTHONY (following): I see. Well, I would still like to know more of you. Are you native in New York?

DR. CHAPMAN: There’s nothing very much to tell. Really. Besides, Thomas will be along in a moment.

ANTHONY: Now, I know that is a lie. I know there is so much to tell.

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no, not really.

ANTHONY: Please. About the nurse you chased.

Suddenly there is the noise of a door off left, and they look.

THOMAS (calling from off): Hello–I’m back.

DR. CHAPMAN: Hello, Thomas.

THOMAS strides on, removing his scarf, unbuttoning his jacket.

THOMAS: Hello, Dr. Chapman. Hello, An-thony.

ANTHONY: We have decided.


ANTHONY: We have decided, Thomas. Dr. Chapman helped me.

THOMAS: Decided what? What’s he saying, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN: We picked the day. He did, really. February tenth.

THOMAS: You decided? Are you saying–? Are you saying that “?


THOMAS: When? When did you decide?

ANTHONY: Just now.

The lights go to black and then rise on THOMAS alone near the upstage left corner, a telephone held to his ear. Music plays in the background.

THOMAS (into phone): Susanah? Susanah, they’ve decided. They’re going through with it.” No, no, they picked a date, he and this doctor I told you about. I wasn’t even there. I was out–just out. Can I ask you something? I came back and they told me. Can I ask you something? I feel so lost. I want you to help me get through this. I need you to help us both get through this.

A loud blast of sound: amplified voice of a sportscaster. Hockey game in progress. On the screen is projected: JANUARY 29, 1990.

The lights come up on the downstage left corner where the DOORMAN and DR. CHAPMAN stand side by side, gazing upward, almost reverential as they listen to the game.

VOICE OF SPORTSCASTER: Hunter powers over the blue line, dinks, fakes a shot, fakes a shot. Then ” SHOOTS! Save by Richter. Point-blank save by Richter. Shot by Muriev. Save by Richter. Rebound. SAVE BY RICHTER! SAVE BY RICHTER! SAVE BY RICHTER! ANOTHER SAVE BY RICHTER!

DOORMAN: What a stand by Richter! Six–Five–no, six saves by Richter. You a hockey fan, Doc?

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, no.

DOORMAN: Oh, you oughta give it a try.

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m afraid I don’t know anything about it, really.

DOORMAN: It’s a great game! Would you go with me, if I got tickets sometime? As my guest. It’d be my honor, Doc.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, I’m–I don’t know.

DOORMAN: It’s not what you think. No, no, the violence is not the game. The game is speed and instinct. They’re like birds. It’s an electric current.

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t think so, Eddie. Thank you, but–

DOORMAN: Just tell me this, tell me one thing. What could you lose by going to one game?

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t know.

DOORMAN: Well, I do. I know. And I can tell you, too. Nothing. I’m gonna call this guy right now and fix it! (Heading off, grabbing phone.) We’re gonna have two tickets in the front row, Doc! You’ll love it!

As the DOORMAN disappears, the doorbell rings. SUSANAH TOMKINS enters from stage right on the platform. DR. CHAPMAN turns and finds himself face-to-face with her.


DR. CHAPMAN: Oh, am I–where am I? Is this the right apartment? What apartment is this?

THOMAS (as he comes running forward, entering from upstage right): Dr. Chapman, this is Susanah Tomkins.

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh. Hello.

SUSANAH: We’ve met. (She extends her hand.)

DR. CHAPMAN: We have?


As they shake hands:

SUSANAH: At the Levines’.


SUSANAH: You don’t remember.

ANTHONY enters, wearing a bright red silk shirt.

ANTHONY: Dr. Chapman. Good evening.

THOMAS: Chiquito! You’re wearing your new shirt!

DR. CHAPMAN: Thomas, can I talk to you for a second?

THOMAS: Of course.

DR. CHAPMAN (heading for the upstage right corner, near the kitchen): We’ll just be a minute.

THOMAS (moving to join DR. CHAPMAN): I’ve put some water on for tea.

As SUSANAH joins ANTHONY on the couch:

ANTHONY: Is something wrong?

SUSANAH: I don’t think it’s serious.

Up in the corner, in a pocket of light, DR. CHAPMAN, clearly disturbed, faces THOMAS.

DR. CHAPMAN: What is she doing here?

THOMAS: Well, she’s a friend. No, no, you don’t have to worry–she’s fine.

DR. CHAPMAN: What do you mean, ‘she’s fine”?

THOMAS: She’s all right. She knows everything.

DR. CHAPMAN: What are you talking about? We–we agreed to keep this between ourselves, between the three of us.

THOMAS: But she can be trusted completely. She’s my dearest friend. She’s our friend, Anthony’s friend, my friend.

DR. CHAPMAN: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that you and I and Anthony agreed to restrict, to confine–we were going to limit the people who–

SUSANAH: Is this about me?

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s not so much about you ”

As SUSANAH strides up to them:

DR. CHAPMAN: ” as it is about certain agreements that I thought Thomas and I had reached that were unequivocal.

SUSANAH: There’s nothing to worry about. I understand the delicacy of the situation. Of course you’re nervous about me just appearing like this–

THOMAS: I should have told you, I know–warned you, but–

SUSANAH: He should have.

THOMAS: I’m sorry.

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t understand how you could violate our ground rules without giving me the slightest warning.

SUSANAH: That’s why I’m here, really. I mean, to tell you.

THOMAS: To ask you, in a sense.

DR. CHAPMAN: Ask me what?

THOMAS: I worried you would refuse me if I just asked. But if you met her–and saw how she–how WE–

SUSANAH: What you have to understand is the necessity–that I have to be involved. This is important ” in my life. I can’t tell you how important, but these two are the dearest people, my dearest friends. I can’t be left out of this matter, this terrible–but I understand your shock.

THOMAS: It’s perfectly understandable.

SUSANAH: I just want to reassure you. I understand the complexity, the delicacy, and how you would naturally be reluctant to have what appears to you as this total stranger brought in at this sensitive moment, but that’s the point. I’m not a stranger.

THOMAS: She’s been my confidante for years. And Anthony’s, too.

SUSANAH: Do you understand? If it’s come to this–that it’s come to such a thing between these two, then I have to be with them. You’ve got to understand.

THOMAS: I need her to help me through this. To help us both.

SUSANAH: I’ll make the tea. You go out there, the two of you. I’ll join you. It’ll be all right, Doctor. (She steps offstage right.)

ANTHONY (calling to them): What are the three of you concocting in there without me?

THOMAS: Nothing.

DR. CHAPMAN: Nothing.

ANTHONY: Someone come here. Anthony is alone.

THOMAS hurries to ANTHONY. SUSANAH, carrying a tray with the tea, returns and faces DR. CHAPMAN.

SUSANAH: You don’t like me, do you?


SUSANAH: I can usually tell from the first instant.

DR. CHAPMAN: This isn’t personal.

SUSANAH: Of course it is. But that’s all right. I’m not here to challenge your authority.

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t know what you mean.

SUSANAH: Good. How do you like your tea?

DR. CHAPMAN: What do you mean?

SUSANAH: About the tea?


SUSANAH: Thomas called me–we met for a drink. He started sobbing. I’m here to help. That’s all. We can’t all be heroes, you know. As much as we’d like to be.

DR. CHAPMAN: Honestly, I’m having a certain amount of trouble understanding what you’re really saying.

SUSANAH: Perhaps when you know me better.

As she strides down to the couch, the lights darken except for a pool around DR. CHAPMAN, who faces out. Music plays in the background as he walks directly downstage.

DR. CHAPMAN: I was in surgery–this was a year and seven months ago. We were all scrubbed and masked. In our uniforms. The scalpel in my hand, and as I worked and my hand grew tired–it’s difficult, you know. The flesh fights back. You have to force the blade. Force it. I went deeper, and then ” I stopped. Everyone thought I was resting. They wiped my brow, and I stood there thinking that it was a person lying there and I was just this man with a knife. I finished, of course, and it was fine. Successful–as far as everyone else was concerned. But I thought I better take a little break. A day or two, a few weeks. I haven’t picked up a scalpel since.

Behind him, the others laugh as they sit with their tea, and DR. CHAPMAN moves to join them.

SUSANAH: Well, I thought it was off the mark.

THOMAS: I have to admit that it is the kind of movie that invites you to be harsh in your criticism, but I still think a person can–

SUSANAH: I wasn’t harsh on it. I took it on its own terms.

THOMAS: No, no, I mean, it has pretensions of being serious, but it’s really intended purely as entertainment, and so if you are taken in by its less integral aspects, its more superficial kind of surface things, then you will misapply your own critical standards and judge it harshly. It’s really slight, and if you look at it that way, it’s quite fulfilling.

SUSANAH: I don’t think it deserves that much thought, actually, for goodness’ sake. I did nothing more than sit and react.

THOMAS: But what I’m doing is I’m just trying to hopefully kind of delineate where the sense of confusion in your response comes from, because I really think that’s it.


THOMAS: I’m sure of it.

ANTHONY: I didn’t see it.

SUSANAH: You didn’t miss much.

THOMAS: I liked it. I found it satisfying–but strictly on its own terms.

SUSANAH: Well, you could be right, I suppose, but I have no intention of testing your theory by seeing it again.

ANTHONY: You can rent the video in a few months.

SUSANAH: A dubious opportunity from where I’m sitting. A film like that is like Ben and Jerry’s Marshmallow Dream for the mind. It’s like injecting fat directly into your brain.

THOMAS: Please, Susanah, protect me from ever ending up on your worst-ten list.

SUSANAH: I am unforgiving, at least aesthetically.

ANTHONY: Robert.


ANTHONY: Tell me about death.


ANTHONY: What it’s like, what happens.

DR. CHAPMAN: What do you mean?

ANTHONY: What happens when you die?

DR. CHAPMAN: Well–you mean you want me to tell you what happens when you die?

ANTHONY: You’re a doctor; you should know.

DR. CHAPMAN: I don’t know what you mean.

SUSANAH: Are you asking how does it manifest, Anthony? What does the body do?


SUSANAH: He’s asking about the physical experience, Dr. Chapman, not–

DR. CHAPMAN: Oh! You mean in the body–is that what you mean?–the physical details! Anthony, I thought you–

ANTHONY: What? The afterlife? No, no, no.

SUSANAH: Why would he ask you about that?

ANTHONY (little laugh): No, no, I wouldn’t ask that. In fact, I’ll do my best to tell you about that when I get there. I’ll report back.

DR. CHAPMAN: So it’s the physical details you’re inquiring about?

SUSANAH: Of course.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well.” Like what? Do you have some specific area that–

ANTHONY: The death rattle.

THOMAS: Is there such a thing?

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s been called that.

SUSANAH: But that’s not what it in fact is. I mean, ‘death” rattling.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, no. I mean, there’s sometimes–actually, it’s very common, that certain secretions in the lungs cannot be cleared, and the body–the body makes this last effort to clear them.

ANTHONY: The body is a single-minded bore. Live, live, live. That’s all it wants. Is there anything I should have, something Thomas and I might not have thought of, so that I am prepared, so I am not caught off guard? Any kind of equipment we should buy to get ready?

DR. CHAPMAN: Not that I can think of at the moment. You have the diapers.

THOMAS: He has to die in diapers?

ANTHONY: Thomas, I think your fastidiousness makes you miss the point. I live in diapers.

THOMAS: I was thinking of your dignity.

ANTHONY: Ah. Yes. Well. Don’t bother.

DR. CHAPMAN: You see there is at the time of death a relaxation of the bowel and the urinary sphincters, so that it would be best if–

THOMAS: I shouldn’t have asked.

ANTHONY: You didn’t. I’m the one that asked. I hadn’t seen the movie. So I changed the subject. I’m the one that asked.

SUSANAH: That is what happened, Thomas.

THOMAS: And then I asked.

ANTHONY: No, you didn’t.

THOMAS: Well I said something. And I shouldn’t have. That’s what I’m saying. (Rising, starting to collect the teacups on the tray.) Whatever I said when I thought I was asking was something I shouldn’t have said. (Moving upstage right with the loaded tray.) We were having a nice conversation there and–I mean, it was almost as if we were just all together, having a nice evening, an ordinary, simple–(He freezes, then turns to face them.) I’m terrified of the police. I always have been. The idea, the idea–they terrify me. They can just take you and put you in jail. Put handcuffs on you. March you off and lock you up. Dr. Chapman, do you think that I should see a lawyer in order to prepare for what might happen? I mean, what if we’re caught and I’m put–I’m put in prison? It could happen. It could. No one can tell me it couldn’t. (He begins to weep.) And I’m losing Anthony. That’s what I can’t bear. Even as he is, with all his suffering, he’s here. He’s here! But if we do this he’ll be gone and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

THOMAS turns and walks off. ANTHONY starts to rise and walk as THOMAS returns. ANTHONY moves to him.

ANTHONY (reaching to touch and console THOMAS): Oh, please. Please, Thomas. It’s all right.

THOMAS: It’s not. It’s not all right.

ANTHONY: Of course not, but–

DR. CHAPMAN and SUSANAH watch as THOMAS and ANTHONY sag into each other’s arms.

SUSANAH (spinning back, facing the table): It’s so fucking awful!

DR. CHAPMAN (starting to rise): I think–I don’t think anybody’s ready for this. Nobody’s ready to do this. (On his feet, he moves to his coat, which hangs over an upstage chair.) Neither of you is ready, and to tell the truth, I’m not either.

THOMAS: What? No, no. What do you mean?

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s obvious, isn’t it? (Heading for the door and looking back at her.) Susanah?


ANTHONY (pursuing DR. CHAPMAN): No!

THOMAS: But Anthony, we have to listen to him if he thinks we should put it off, or postpone it, or–

ANTHONY: Please. PLEASE! It’s only a matter of a few minutes of misery for each of us, and then my misery will be over–it will all be over. You will lose me anyway! I’m gone anyway. I’m gone now!

THOMAS: Nooo, you’re–

ANTHONY: This is not Anthony! This stinking baby in diapers who cannot eat, who cannot think, is not a man! You cannot be so selfish! You, Thomas,-1 need your commitment most of all!

SUSANAH: But the certainty–the certainty is so difficult. I don’t know how anyone can know what is right absolutely in this kind of situation.

ANTHONY: I do. I know.

DR. CHAPMAN: It’s me. No, no, what I feel is that I’m putting too much pressure on everything. (Adjusting his coat.) My presence is demanding that you move from the level of discussion, the level of possibility, into reality, into action right now, when neither of you is–

ANTHONY: But that is why we wanted you here. It’s why I summoned you.

ANTHONY pursues DR. CHAPMAN, and they pace along the edge of the platform, moving downstage.

DR. CHAPMAN: What I’m trying to say is that my involvement makes your death real, and near. It makes it close.

ANTHONY: I know.

DR. CHAPMAN: But Thomas–for Thomas, the whole matter is not as clear as it is for you.

ANTHONY: But I am the one who is to die.

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes, Anthony. You’re resolved, but he isn’t, and you demand his participation. I feel everything slipping because there are too many unsettled, unexamined feelings in this, so that it’s slipping out of what little control I have–we have. I’m ready to withdraw. Now. I feel I should. I’m beginning to feel quite out of place.

ANTHONY: No. I beg you.

DR. CHAPMAN: Oppressive. I feel oppressive.

ANTHONY: Dr. Chapman–to move us to action is why we called you–

THOMAS: Dr. Chapman, please–this is my fault. (Coming forward, interrupting.) It’s my fault. You’re the answer to Anthony’s prayers. To him you are a kind of salvation. (He sits on the chair by the couch.) You must not leave him. My feelings are not to be taken seriously–they must be seen as secondary, and they have to be subordinated by all of us to whatever Anthony wants.

DR. CHAPMAN: Susanah, what do you think?

SUSANAH: I feel I shouldn’t intrude. I’m trying not to intrude.

DR. CHAPMAN: But what do you think? Honestly?

SUSANAH: It’s your advice they want. It’s you they’re asking. ANTHONY, exhausted, moves toward the couch.

ANTHONY: Thomas.


ANTHONY: Thomas, listen. (As he sags onto the couch and faces THOMAS.) I feel that perhaps I have asked too much of you.

THOMAS: No. I will manage it.

ANTHONY: But if I didn’t demand that you be with me, perhaps it would be easier.

THOMAS: What do you mean?

ANTHONY: Not with me when it happens.

THOMAS: Not with you? Not holding you? (Moving to join ANTHONY on the couch, taking his hand.) You would be alone.

ANTHONY: I would be with Dr. Chapman. It’s too difficult for you, Thomas. We both know it. You could be somewhere else–with Susanah, perhaps.


SUSANAH: You said your desires should be secondary, Thomas, that you should subordinate yourself to what Anthony wants. Did you really mean that?

THOMAS: Yes. I don’t know. I’m saying a lot of things–

SUSANAH: I think you should listen to him.

ANTHONY (to DR. CHAPMAN): Thomas simply cannot lie. It’s not in his nature. If he were questioned by the police, he would have to tell the truth. His attempts to lie would be hopeless. He simply can’t. It’s a virtue, really. (To THOMAS.) You know it’s true, Thomas. (To DR. CHAPMAN.) We must find a way to help him be less involved. To protect him.

THOMAS: Where would I be, then? If I wasn’t with you.

ANTHONY: I don’t know.

SUSANAH: You could be with me. We could–

THOMAS: But Anthony, we’ve planned everything through so completely. I mean, the little things I was going to do for you. The lighting in the room, and the music that I would make sure was playing.

ANTHONY (to DR. CHAPMAN): We were going to play this Bach piece. To have it on the stereo as I took the pills.

THOMAS: You need that.

ANTHONY (to THOMAS): But I could do it. I could start the music. Make sure it started, and then I would take the pills as instructed by Robert. Who would maybe even be there with me to help me, to guide me. So I did it right.

THOMAS: And what would I do? Where would I be?

DR. CHAPMAN: You could wait in the living room with Susanah.

ANTHONY: You would not be with us.

SUSANAH: Does this make sense to you, Dr. Chapman? (Approaching, she settles on the chair to the right of the couch.) Does it seem feasible?

DR. CHAPMAN: I could be there. (Approaching, he settles on the chair to the left of the couch.) With him. To monitor him. And you and Thomas could–well, wait in the living room.

THOMAS: What are you saying? (Rising, as if to escape their gathering.) That we would be somewhere in the apartment waiting the whole time until he dies?

SUSANAH: We wouldn’t have to. I mean, it wouldn’t be necessary that we be here. We could go out–somewhere–and return to find him dead.

THOMAS: Where would we go?

SUSANAH: I don’t know. Anywhere.

THOMAS (pacing behind the couch): It seems so weird when I think about it, just sitting in the living room, knowing what’s going on in the next room.

SUSANAH: We could go out. I think we would have to. For a walk.

THOMAS: I couldn’t just walk around.

SUSANAH: Or to the movies. We could go to the movies.

ANTHONY: What movie?

THOMAS: I don’t know. Why?

ANTHONY: I was just wondering.

THOMAS: I don’t know what movie. I don’t know anything at this point.

SUSANAH: We would have to be out for how long? An hour? Two?

DR. CHAPMAN (slipping out of his overcoat, leaving it on the chair on which he sits): Oh, no. Much longer.

THOMAS: Longer? How long?

DR. CHAPMAN: Perhaps all day?

THOMAS: All day!

He approaches the others; they watch him.

THOMAS: I don’t think I can stand it. This is insane. Listen to us. (He stands looking down; these are the terms of his return.) I don’t think I can stand it. That’s what I’m saying.

ANTHONY: It’s all right.

THOMAS: Is it? IS IT? I have no idea. (He sits again on the couch beside ANTHONY.)

ANTHONY: But what will happen exactly?

SUSANAH: We’ll come back. We’ll find you.

THOMAS: And then what?

SUSANAH: We would have to call somebody, I would guess. A doctor.

DR. CHAPMAN: Yes. But not me.

THOMAS: Should it be the clinic? I’m not sure we should call the clinic.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, somebody must be called.

SUSANAH: Nine-one-one?

THOMAS: What will they do? They’ll be strangers, won’t they?

DR. CHAPMAN: I think the clinic.

SUSANAH: All right then–and then what if they–what if the doctor notifies the police?

THOMAS: Yes, yes. Because Anthony makes no secret of his desires in this regard when he’s at the clinic. Isn’t that right, Anthony?

ANTHONY: Isn’t what right?

THOMAS: That there are people at the clinic who know you want to die.

ANTHONY: I have spoken my heart, yes. Why?

THOMAS: They’ve even threatened to withhold pain medication because they thought him “high risk.”

DR. CHAPMAN: Wait a minute! What have you told them, Anthony?

ANTHONY: I have never mentioned you, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: This is very unnerving! (Rising, he paces away.) I mean, days ago, we spoke about this–we agreed that we required secrecy, that we required discretion, and then I come in here and find Susanah; now you’re telling me that you go about just–when were you last at the clinic?

ANTHONY: It’s not as if such sentiments are unique to me–don’t think that.

DR. CHAPMAN: Well, what should I think?

ANTHONY: Such talk is quite common in our waiting room gatherings. Most express the desire to die at one point or another. Some die, others don’t. It is not as if the things I’ve said set me apart in some particular, exaggerated way.

DR. CHAPMAN (moving behind the couch, behind ANTHONY): Anthony, listen to me. At the clinic, next time, I want you to do something for me.

ANTHONY: Yes, what?

DR. CHAPMAN: I want you to ask them for a prescription of fifty Levo-Dromoran tablets. It’s a narcotic. They’ll be useful to us. But, more importantly, it will give us a clear sense of how worried they are about you in this area. If they’re really worried, they won’t give them to you. Can you do that?

ANTHONY: All right. Yes, I’ll ask them.

SUSANAH: You seem very disturbed on this point, Dr. Chapman.

DR. CHAPMAN: What we’re talking about is against the law. We have to understand that no matter what our feelings of right or wrong, or compassion, or even moral authority, we are conspiring to commit an illegal, criminal act. And that is how we will be viewed if what we’ve done is discovered. We will be viewed as criminals. Murderers, even.

THOMAS: You’re saying all this for my benefit, aren’t you. Because of what I admitted about my feeling about jail. Just understand that I want to go forward. I’m sorry for my weakness in these things. We have to ignore it. I have to try to control it, but if I can’t, then we must all ignore it. All of us.

SUSANAH: What are you thinking, Dr. Chapman?

DR. CHAPMAN (grabbing his overcoat): I’m quite late for another appointment. I really didn’t expect things to get so complicated.

ANTHONY: You’re going? But what is it? Can’t you change it?

DR. CHAPMAN (heading for the door): No.

ANTHONY: I’ll walk you to the door.

THOMAS: No, no. Let me; Anthony, you shouldn’t–

ANTHONY: I want to. I can.

As ANTHONY follows DR. CHAPMAN toward the door:

ANTHONY (privately): Where are you going?

DR. CHAPMAN: I told you. I have an appointment.

ANTHONY: Don’t lie to me, Robert.

DR. CHAPMAN: I’m not–why would you say that?

ANTHONY: You’re running away.

DR. CHAPMAN: No, no. I have an appointment. (Calling.) Good night, Thomas, Susanah.

THOMAS: Good night.

SUSANAH: Good night, Dr. Chapman. Thank you.

DR. CHAPMAN exits.

THOMAS (approaching ANTHONY): You shouldn’t exert yourself unnecessarily, like that. I could have walked him to the door.

ANTHONY: But I wanted to.

THOMAS: And so you did.

ANTHONY: That’s right. I did. I’m worried he won’t come back.

THOMAS: What did he say? Did he say that?


ANTHONY starts across from stage left to right. THOMAS reaches and touches ANTHONY as he passes.

THOMAS: You think I’m driving him away, don’t you.


THOMAS: You do.

ANTHONY: No. I’m going to bed now. I’m very tired. Still seated, SUSANAH watches.

THOMAS: Good night. I’ll be in in a minute.

THOMAS stands as ANTHONY crosses away. SUSANAH watches as the distance between them grows. Then ANTHONY, at the stage right edge, freezes, facing upstage while THOMAS, at upstage left, turns away. They go into silhouette. Music plays in the background as SUSANAH is isolated in a pool of light. Slowly, she faces out.

SUSANAH: Once ” I remember a beach, and the three of us. One of those islands–a little one–way off. We’d traveled together, like comrades, or musketeers, or stooges. And the water was this strange, shocking blue. They were in the shallows, Thomas and Anthony, throwing a beach ball back and forth, and the sky was so bright it seemed sort of exploding, the sun glaring down, and I thought of snow. Looking up, I thought of the way it falls. The way snow is cold and delicate, and yet it falls.