Exploring the Human Condition: Balm in Gilead

The depth and complexity of the human condition is the main focus of Ryerson Theatre School’s Balm in Gilead.

The desire to be loved and accepted, and to have hopes and dreams are some of the overarching themes that are addressed in the play. The play is performed as the graduating show for the fourth-year acting class.

Written by Lanford Wilson, Balm in Gilead takes places in ‘70s New York. It centres on a café where prostitutes, drug dealers, and others on the outskirts of society gather to escape their life on the streets. For some of the actors in the play, relating to the struggles of their characters was a challenge.

“I’m a student at Ryerson. I haven’t lived on the streets or sold drugs or anything like that so finding the universe, the context of what’s happening and making it real for myself was the hard part,” said Dan Mousseau, who plays Joe Conroy, a drug dealer and one of the leads.

To prepare for the role, the actors did a lot of research and watched documentaries to understand the lives of people they were portraying. It was important to not play the characters as stereotypes or caricatures.

“My goal is to present an honest human being to the audience,” said Mousseau.
Despite the unpleasant situations the characters were in, the humanity of the characters helped the actors connect to them.

“Everyone is trying to make connections,” said Nicole Hrgetic, who plays a prostitute
named Ann. “Everyone has a basic human instinct of wanting to be cared for.”

Director Philip Akin chose the play because it had a wide range of characters. Each of the characters have their own stories and conversations– some of which happen at the same time– which makes the story more interesting. “You could actually come back and see it two or three times and follow different people in the play and get a whole different idea,” he said.

Balm in Gilead runs from Mar. 4 to Mar. 12 at the Abrams Studio Theatre.


Photo courtesy of Inga Bekbudova and the Ryerson Theatre School.