Stricken with AIDS, Anthony's life has become a myriad of endless symptoms and hopeless desperation. With the help of his lover and caretaker, Thomas, and friend, Susanah, Anthony seeks the guidance of an understanding doctor who will put an end to his suffering. He finds Dr. Chapman, a retired surgeon, who is at first unwilling, but is soon persuaded by Anthony's sympathetic charm and dignity to assist in the mercy killing. When Anthony acquires the pills and sets a day for his suicide, Dr. Chapman devises a methodical plan that must be meticulously followed. Suddenly realizing that Dr. Chapman could be convicted of murder, Susanah insists that he not be involved, and soon the doctor is left to confront his own misconceptions of life, death, law and medicine. They all wait helplessly until the hour of Anthony's planned suicide, comforted only by their hope that the wishes of a terminally ill friend will be fulfilled, but, as the time comes and passes, all their wishes and plans are swept aside by a force that proves stronger than any of their desires or decisions.
A QUESTION OF MERCY probes the sensitive and controversial issue of doctor-assisted suicide. "There are many devastating ironies in Mr. Rabe's beautifully considered, piercingly clear-eyed work…Mr. Rabe renders this dark course of thwarted intentions with astonishing elegance, discipline and restraint…Mr. Rabe, in a play that reestablishes him as one of America's preeminent dramatists…has written an exquisitely controlled work about what will forever lie beyond human control." —NY Times. "With unsettling candor and disturbing insight, the play arouses pity and understanding of a troubling subject…Rabe's provocative tale is an affirmation of dignity that rings clear and true." —Variety. "Rarely has a playwright pared down a script with such a skilled hand. Like a surgeon with a scalpel, Rabe has pulled back the flesh to expose the heart of the matter." —BackStage.