In Show Me the Way to Go Home, Lisa Koch makes her audience fall in love with her father and then she lets them watch him die.
Through a combination of storytelling, songs, and emails, Koch pulls up an extra chair at the family dinner table and introduces us to the man who raised her—a man who spent 30 years as a sixth grade teacher and collected bad jokes with ardor.
"How do you compliment a woman from Arkansas?" "Nice tooth."
A slideshow of family photos plays on a screen behind her as she recounts the email she got from her mother, breaking her father's diagnosis of stomach cancer, aka "The Bastard." She walks us through hospital visits, treatment schedules, conversations with Dr. God, her father's born-again physician, with the grace of a woman raised to process all news—both good and bad—with humor.
Koch talks about her father's decision to use Death with Dignity, the Oregon and Washington law that allows terminal patients to access drugs to end their lives at their own pace—although accessing the drugs is nearly impossible when your attending physician is nicknamed "Dr. God." (Death with Dignity requires the cooperation of at least two doctors and a pharmacist.)
She recounts standing in the family kitchen, breaking open 100 capsules of Seconal—the drug that will allow her father to slip into a coma and peacefully die—and mixing it with applesauce. She gives her audience permission to laugh, even as they cry: "Whatever you do, don't lick the spoon," Koch recounts joking with her brother.
Show Me the Way to Go Home is a fitting eulogy for a great father and teacher. It will resonate with anyone who's checked a loved one into hospice care, but more than that, it's the kind of graceful, loving tribute we would all give to our dearly departed, if we had but the talent for storytelling.
You can catch it tonight and tomorrow at the Theater Off-Jackson, in the International District.