(Robert) Brian Clark Richard Eder - Essay

Richard Eder

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Whose Life Is It Anyway?" is a battle of ideas and a battle for life. It is a rare successful effort to fuse a tense and provocative argument, carried on in unashamed vigor and prolixity, with a play that lives and moves….

The questions raised by the playwright, Brian Clark, are complex and fascinating. Is life a right or a duty? Do experts—in this case the doctors—have the right to usurp our decisions for what they consider our own good?

Mr. Clark clearly is on the side of freedom but he has set the terms of the argument in an agonizing balance. Emerson, the chief doctor, may disregard his patient's insistence on his human dignity but he is, after all, trying to save his life. Ken Harrison, the patient, makes an appeal for freedom that is irresistible, but his victory means his death. It is a battle between two opposed concepts of the good.

But this alone would make a theme, not a play. "Whose Life" never gets far from its argument. It is a work of unfashionable intellectual tenacity and once or twice, perhaps, it has the defect of rounding out its points a bit too completely. But it has a great deal more than that.

It is almost indecently witty, yet its wit is the plunging, sparkling release of its seriousness. Its characters serve as types and embody the arguments, yet virtually all of them have a rebellious individuality of their own. There is no one—the autocratic...

(The entire section is 403 words.)