Cecelia Mason Published

New Play Delves Into Problems With Health Care System


As the deadline for signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act approaches audiences in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia will have the opportunity to view the issue of health care through a one-man play called Mercy Killers.

The main character in the play is Joe. He’s from southeast Ohio, works as an auto mechanic and is libertarian in his political views. Michael Milligan, the Juilliard educated stage actor, wrote the play and has been performing it for about a year now.

Milligan said when he was younger he had insurance but had not given much thought to the issue of medical care. Then he was in a relationship with someone who needed a lot of medical care.

“It was thrust upon me, the reality of how difficult it is for many people to get the care that they need,” Milligan said.

In the play, Joe’s wife has cancer and loses her health insurance. And the couple struggles with paying for the treatment she needs.

Milligan has done readings of Mercy Killers and has performed it steadily for a little over a year now in several states and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland where it won the Fringe First Award for new plays.

All the while, the heated national debate over the Affordable Care Act and its implementation raged on.

“I remember during that weekend when the shutdown was happening which was about Obamacare, I was performing it in an open garage in Williamsburg Brooklyn sort of spilling over into the sidewalk on a Saturday night as people were walking by going to meet their friends at bars and stuff,” he said. “And people stopped and listened and really got the sense that ‘oh, this debate is still going on,’ that was interesting.”

Milligan said the play doesn’t take a position on Obamacare but tries to remind people about why something had to be done to address problems with the health care system.

“People losing their insurance at the moment they needed it most was really an immoral condition that was going on and however we move forward we need to remember that and not go back to that situation,” he said.

Milligan hopes the audiences who see the play leave with a raised awareness and are willing to take another look at the issues surrounding the health care system.

“From a wider point of view that includes their humanity, their sense of human empathy and their hearts,” Milligan said. “Because I think that the thoughts that people have about it change then when they realize these are real people this is happening to.”

Performance Schedule:

  • Friday, March 28, 7 p.m., Ice House, 138 Independence St., Berkeley Springs
  • Saturday, March 29, 1:30 p.m., Fisherman’s Hall, 312 South West St., Charles Town
  • Sunday, March 30, 2 p.m., Opera House, 131 W. German St., Shepherdstown
  • Monday, March 31, 7 p.m., Calvary Church, 220 W. Burke St., Martinsburg     
  • Tuesday, April 1, 7 p.m., Baha’i Regional Center, 308 S. Buchannan St., Ranson                          
  • Wednesday, April 2, 12:30 p.m., Erma Ora Byrd Nursing Hall Auditorium, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown                

Admission is free but donations to cover costs are welcome.