A close-up story dealing with life and death, “Killing Time,” written by Zoe Mills and directed by Antony Eden, comes to us as part of the current Brits Off Broadway series. It is very appropriately staged in the extremely intimate Theater C at 59E59 Theaters.
Brigit Forsyth gives a feisty performance as Hester Brooke, a renowned cellist who is stricken with terminal cancer. Fading physically, she is determined to die on her own terms. She wants to be left alone, not bothered by anyone, as she enjoys drinking plentiful wine, which she conveniently uses to down the pain-relieving pills that she swallows. Forsyth also really plays the cello, as she skillfully demonstrates to us.
Early on we see her communicating via Skype on a large screen with Robin Herford as her long-time friend George Binks. He wants to come over to assist her, but she repeatedly rejects him, insisting on her desire to be left to live out her final days as she sees fit. Binks is understandably frustrated and upset.
But there is another person in Hester’s life, Sara, a social worker assigned to her, played emphatically by author Mills, who shares producing credits with Forsyth and Eden. (This is obviously a product of close teamwork.) Hester wants to keep Sara away too, but Sara persists and eventually the play settles down to a two-hander, in which they get to know one another.
Sara, who has a been treating various patients, is asked by Hester to help her do away with herself. Sara refuses, but in the course of the drama, we learn much about Sara, her history and her motives. That aspect of the play strikes me as gimmicky, as is the case with the way in which the story ends.
However, what keeps Mills’ play going is the acting. Forsyth communicates Hester’s concerns about what her life has meant, and morbid humor is mined when Sara reads Hester a pre-prepared obituary. The cello is played intermittently, and director Eden uses projections freely to illustrate Hester’s thoughts and life.
Basically this is a slight work, but the intimacy with the closely-seated audience and the acting intensity of Forsyth and Mills keep things rolling in a manner that makes us question the course of mortality, perhaps even one’s own. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Phone: 646-892-7999. Reviewed April 26, 2019.