Theater Review

"Love Alone"
Written by Deborah Salem Smith and directed by Ms. Smith and Tyler Dobrowsky

Reviewed by Zohar Lederman (

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A woman is undergoing standard surgery. The surgeon is well-experienced and well-qualified and has done this procedure numerous times before. The anesthesiologist is new to this hospital, a rising star from an Ivy-league residency program. Everything goes according to plan, and at the end of the surgery the surgeon leaves the OR and approaches the woman’s partner in order to inform her that the surgery was successful. They smile… but all of a sudden he is being called back to the OR… there were complications with the extubation… they try a second intubation… the surgeon says it’s in, the anesthesiologist says it’s not… half an hour later, the operation is successful, but the patient is dead.

Fortunately, this particular case, which portrays the most dreadful outcome in the eyes of any medical student or health professional, did not happen in real-life, although I’m sure similar cases happen all the time. Rather, this is the plot of a show at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. For medical students, healthcare professionals, bioethicists, and lay people - who will probably find themselves under the mercy of a surgeon at some point or another - the plot itself is reason enough to watch the play.  It portrays what goes on behind closed doors in the hospital and how families cope with the loss of their loved ones. However, the play, “Love Alone,” offers much more: The actors do a wonderful job communicating to the audience feelings of anger, depression, love and compassion, and succeed in interjecting moments of rolling laughter among streams of sweet tears. The best part is perhaps those scenes in which the two stories in the show run parallel to each other, all at the same time, which, I admit, might be confusing, but definitely keeps you on your toes. 

The topic itself is interesting from a medical and bioethical standpoint. Many people - both lay people and professionals - don’t know it, but intubation occasionally fails without anybody noticing it, and medicine has yet to come up with an evidence-based method to prevent this from happening. Second, the recent passing of a law which permits physicians to apologize to patients and families for medical errors without it being used against them in court makes this show a most relevant one.  And this links to a third point, which is particularly relevant to my own research: in the show, the patient’s daughter wishes she could have been in the OR with her mom, during the last moments of her life. Should we allow family members in the OR? Are potential medical errors good enough reason to exclude family members from witnessing their loved one’s acute care?

My only critique is that the talk after the show was held by the stage manager rather than by the actors or the script writer- I would have liked to hear what has inspired the script writer and how the actors felt, being in the shoes of the anesthesiologist or the patient’s family.

That being said, “Love Alone” is a feast both for mind and soul, keeping one thinking for many nights after seeing  it. On a personal note, I usually know when a certain scene in a movie or a show is going to cause my wife to cry, so I Iook at her and hold her in advance and tell her that “everything is ok”. This time, I didn’t look at her and couldn’t hold her… this time, I was the one who was crying.


About the Author

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    Zohar Lederman is a sixth (last) year medical student in Pavia, Italy and a B.A Humanities student at the Open University of Israel.  Next year, Zohar is going to follow his beautiful wife to the new Yale-NUS Campus in Singapore and plans to do a residency in Emergency Medicine. Also, Zohar hopes to integrate some graduate work at the Bioethics center at NUS, either as an M.A. or a PhD.  His academic interests include: Philosophy of Science and Medicine, One Health and Environmental Ethics, Deliberative Ethics, Animal Ethics, Family Presence During Resuscitation and End-of-life Issues. When Zohar is not reading a medical- or just a normal- book , you could find him exercising at the gym, running, swimming, hiking with his wife or eating, not necessarily in that order.



  • Published: August 4, 2012