This piece of surrealist theatre successfully dramatises the issues it sets out to explore and uses neat theatrical devices to do it.
This is a piece of art which clearly achieves what it sets out to do
The Day Sam Died presents its audience with three versions of the same day. In each of them, someone called Sam dies in a hospital. It is a rather allegorical tale in which most of the characters represent a different stance with regard to medical ethics. There's a corrupt chief surgeon, a whiter-than-white judge, an idealistic young nurse and a daughter who will do anything to get her father treatment for his Alzheimer's. The story is non-linear, often symbolic, and held together by live guitar pieces.
The play is in Portuguese with English surtitles. These are well executed, in that they are always perfectly in time with what's happening on the stage, but something seems to have been lost in translation. The dialogue is sparse and effective, but the use of English always feels a little stilted and this prevents it from being beautiful.
The play asks important questions about being personally moral within an utterly corrupt system and although it has a clear agenda, the actors breathe enough life into their characters that it never feels uncomfortably biased. Despite their efforts, however, the bulk of the dialogue takes the form of serious conversations about moral decisions and characters are only really used by the play as a way of dressing up the different points of view.
The staging is impressive: everything about it is interactive. Wooden dummies (to represent dead bodies) can be moved and even opened; screens can be moved and used for silhouettes; the roaming guitarist seems sometimes invisible, sometimes a part of the action. All of this lends a cohesion to an otherwise quite fragmented story.
This is a piece of art which clearly achieves what it sets out to do, presenting its audience with a series of knotty moral dilemmas and dramatising them with characters that are credible enough for the purpose.