All Day Suckers
nytheatre.com review by Alyssa Simon
August 19, 2010
We all try to get the best, or any, health insurance we can afford to protect our families from overwhelming medical bills. But what happens if you have a stroke and the insurance company that accepted your payments for more than 30 years denies your claim? That's what happens in All Day Suckers, Susan Dworkin's thought-provoking, emotional, and, yes, funny play that takes us through one person's harrowing journey through the modern American health care system.
Sarah Grace Wilson plays Bryce, an upper middle class young woman whose life seems picture perfect. She's financially set with a well-to-do father, work as an entertainment lawyer, and a Wall Street banker fiance. On the day her boyfriend proposes, however, she gets the awful news that her father has had a stroke.
At the hospital, she discovers his insurance has refused to pay for his care. She is faced with several options, none of them good. One is to bankrupt her father and take all of his assets away in order to make him eligible for Medicaid. Another is to sue the hospital for negligence before they can sue her for payment, thus bankrupting her.
What I found interesting and thoughtful about this production, beautifully directed by Jessica Bauman, was not the facts that are distressingly familiar to anyone who has paid for healthcare in America. Most of us know someone with a horror story or we ourselves have one. What the cast and direction so sensitively portray, however, are the ways a system built for the benefit of corporations can turn people against each other and their better natures.
Sarah Nina Hayon, a strong standout in this all-around fine cast, is Carlita, a woman with far fewer financial resources than Bryce. Her common-law spouse Emilio has a brain tumor and no legal papers. She has no time to take off work or find someone to look after her kids while she tries to wrangle with the hospital's so-called patient advocate, Becca, sympathetically portrayed by Margaret Daly.
An Insurance Sprite, smarmily portrayed by Zachary Fine, whispers bitterly in Bryce's ear about illegal aliens getting free health care in this country that are paid for with her taxes while her father, "a real American," lies uncared for. Then he whispers in Carlita's ear about rich Americans who don't care if she and her family lives or dies. Instead of sharing information and joining forces to advocate for their loved ones' care, the two women view each other with suspicion and blame.
Three very versatile actors, Ryan McCarthy, Paul Carlin, and Melissa Wolff, round out the cast. McCarthy, especially, shows fantastic range as Bryce's shallow and selfish fiance Barrett one moment and a totally different and surprising character at the end. Wolff shines as well as a glamorous actress client of Bryce's, a harried nurse, and an unscrupulous business partner of Bryce's father. Carlin portrays not only the father, but also his estranged brother as well in equally funny and touching portrayals.
That's another great thing about this production. It touches on what many counselors tell caregivers to expect, that the friends and family you think will support you may turn away and the ones who you least think will take the time to care, may do so in unexpected ways. This show, as well, is an unexpected pleasure that tells a much need-to-hear truth.