The Mercy Seat (play)

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Original theatrical poster for The Mercy Seat.

The Mercy Seat is a 2002 play by Neil LaBute that was among the first major theatrical responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Set on September 12, it concerns Ben, a man who worked at the World Trade Center but was away from the office during the attack, with his mistress, Abby, who is also his boss. Expecting that his family believes that he was killed in the towers' collapse, Ben contemplates using the tragedy to run away and start a new life with his lover.


Though urban legends of a similar adulterous situation circulated at the time, LaBute has said he was actually inspired to write the play when, after the events of September 11, his flight from Chicago to New York was cancelled and he had to take a 21-hour train ride. LaBute explained to The New York Times that he thought, "This is inconvenient....[and] I remember thinking, 'Ooh, that's not a very good thought to have.' I knew it wasn't right, but the thought had already come out."[1]

New York production[edit]

The play opened in New York on December 18, 2002, and was both a commercial and critical success (it sold out for the length of its run).[2] The production starred Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver.

The play, which "requires almost a nonstop output of high-octane emotion,"[1] was an emotionally draining experience for Weaver and Schreiber. Weaver (who had already appeared in the 9/11-themed play The Guys) admitted that "It takes its toll....It's hard to be that rough to each other, it's hard to be those characters, and it's hard to be that rough to the world situation....But I must say, as well as shocking, [the play] was funny. And necessary."[1] Schreiber, who stepped in to play Ben after frequent LaBute collaborator Aaron Eckhart proved unavailable, was deeply affected by his character's flaws, saying, "Doing this part, I feel, well, shadier. Not that I'm doing anything shady. It's like trying to shake off an itch that's not really there."[2]

Lima production[edit]

The Mercy Seat was performed in Lima, Perú during June 2008, in a Spanish translation entitled Misericordia, starring Mónica Sánchez and Gonzalo Molina.


  1. ^ a b c "THEATER; A Response to 9/11 So Unheroically Human". by Julie Salamon, The New York Times. 2002-12-15. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  2. ^ a b "A Role That's Hard to Shake Off: The 9/11 Antihero". by Robin Finn, The New York Times. 2003-01-08. Retrieved 2008-03-22.