“Expiration Date” is a play that explores end-of-life issues with both humor and tears. The play is being presented in Minneapolis, and the CityPages publication there just did a Q&A with Candy Simmons, the playwright and performer. Here are a few paragraphs from the story by Ed Huyck:
‘Expiration Date’ looks at end of life issues
In Expiration Date, playwright and performer Candy Simmons explores terminal illness, a topic that, as she puts it, is often dealt with in “hushed tones” and is impolite to bring up in general conversation. In her one-woman piece, Simmons tells the story of Lucille, as we follow her from diagnosis to the end of her life. With it, Simmons hopes to generate talk about the topics.
It doesn’t make any sense, does it? We are biologically built to go through this experience. We’re born, we die. When did we as a society completely lose these coping skills? On one hand, we’re completely inundated with violence and TV medical shows, but it’s all so sanitized. When someone becomes ill, you hand yourself or your family member over to the medical professionals to deal with, then we die and we hand the corpse over to the funeral home to manage. The intimacy of this time in our lives is being lost.
When someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness we speak in hushed tones; it’s disrespectful to discuss or bring up in polite conversation. What I found most interesting in talking about the piece to folks is that 85 percent of the time I mentioned the topic I was offered an unsolicited anecdote in return. People really do want to talk about death, about the experiences they’ve had, what they want for themselves and their loved ones. Starting the conversation just seems insurmountable socially, so we don’t talk about it and then we’re in crisis and it’s that much harder.
Although we are exposed to Lucille’s medical experience, her journey is more an exploration of her emotional roadblocks and the sheer logistics of navigating this journey we all have to face at some point. By following this woman’s journey, audiences are offered a safe way to laugh and be present with someone going through the death process. When I verbalize fears in my own life, they seem to lose a bit of power over me. This show is about starting that conversation, confronting that experience together.