The Mercy Seat continues provocative playwright Neil LaBute’s early 2000s streak of intense, polarizing dramas that are heated and very much of the moment… and may be seen as dated in the present era.
I never saw this play performed, instead becoming aware of it sometime in 2004 when I placed an increased interest on LaBute’s work in preparation for directing The Shape Of Things at Hampshire College. The script focuses on a World Trade Center worker, Ben, who was coincidentally played by Hampshire alum Liev Schreiber in the original production. Ben happens to be away from the office on the faithful morning, and ends up at the home of his mistress, Abby, originally played by Sigourney Weaver. Ben discusses whether he wants to make the tragedy into an opportunity for him to run away from his existing life, believing that his family will think he has died. Abby tries to reason with him and take both sides of the argument, as they sit there in her apartment just one day after the attacks.
It would be interesting to know the production history of this play, as on the one hand it seems to have quickly dated, while on the other hand it continues to exist as a time capsule of a tense, uncertain time in US history when people didn’t know who to trust and couldn’t believe what had happened on that sunny Tuesday morning. And the US has moved so far away from that initial period of uncertainty — not in the best directions IMO — it sometimes seems like much longer than 13 years has passed.