Public Good (Philip McKee and Rose Plotek) 2019 SummerWorks Review

photo for the show Public Good - picture of tents in a parking lot with a banner that says non violent overhead

Public Good, playing at SummerWorks 2019, is a play about ambivalence in a time of impending doom resulting from climate change.

This show, which is part of the lab series and is still in development, begins with a premise that most of us can agree on; climate change is real, it is pressing, and something must be done to combat it. But how much are we willing to sacrifice in order to do that?

The first performer, who plays a political candidate (vaguely reminiscent of Justin Trudeau), kicks off the show by describing in very stark terms the calamities that climate change will wreak upon our world.

Something must be done. We all nod along. Bold action must be taken by the government. We all nod along. If elected he would champion legislation to regulate the birth rate, travel and food consumption in order to reduce our carbon foot print. Uh… wait, what? The whiff of totalitarianism is jarring. But how far should we be prepared to go to save our planet and humanity? That is the crux.

Then a second performer, playing a doctor, describes life in a hospital following a natural disaster, based on interviews from doctors at Memorial Hospital following Hurricane Katrina. I found this to be a devastating and harrowing account which gets progressively bleaker; from the hospital generators failing, to having to decide which patients to evacuate, to evacuation helicopters failing to arrive. Finally the doctor makes a tough and perhaps morally dubious choice when she realizes that help isn’t coming.

She appeals to the audience if they would have done the same in her place under such desperate circumstances. Some say yes, some say no, most of us look dumbfounded.

Keeping in mind that this is a play that is still evolving, I wish there was a chance for the audience to have more of a discussion and debate some of the issues raised. As it stands now, the monologues are compelling, but at times it can feel like you are attending a lecture instead of a show.

This is a show that will make you think. You will leave with a reaction, one way or another. It will be interesting to see how this play evolves.

I’m just going to end with this (dramatic) quote which sums up the main theme of the play: “The deepest circles of hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis” – Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

This review is a snapshot of the first performance of a work-in-progress. The production is one of several pieces at the festival presented as part of the SummerWorks Lab programming introduced in 2018. The participants in SW Lab are still in the development process and will continue to evolve throughout the festival.

Public Good is playing at the Toronto Media Arts Centre – Gamma Gallery (32 Lisgar St.)


  • Wednesday August 14th 5:30pm – 7:00pm
  • Thursday August 15th 8:30pm – 10:00pm
  • Saturday August 17th 12:00pm – 1:30pm
  • Saturday August 17th 5:00pm – 6:30pm
  • Sunday August 18th 5:00pm – 6:30pm

Information on Tickets and Passes:
SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.

Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before showtime and can be purchased as follows:

  • Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page;
  • In-person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12 pm-8 pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket.
  • In-person at the performance venue box office – Any remaining tickets will be made available starting 1 hour before showtime. Venue box offices accept cash only.

Money-saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.

Photo by Philip McKee