WHOSE LIFE IS IT, ANYWAY? -- At the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater through July 27.

What is "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" about, anyway?

It's about a paralyzed man in a hospital who wants to commmit suicide.

Oh, one of those depressing illness-and-death plays. Who can stand another one of those?

But this one isn't depressing. It's quite funny.

Funny? A funny play about paralysis and suicide? It must be in dreadful taste.

No, it's just cheerful.

Cheerful? You mean he gets cheered up and goes on to lead a useful life?

No, no. He's the one who cheers everybody else up.

A brave man who wants to go on, in spite of everything?

A brave man who doesn't.

You mean it's a play that comes out in favor of suicide? A funny play in favor of suicide?

Well, yes. The case against suicide is made, too, of course.

That's a relief. It's not advising everybody to go out and commit suicide?


Just those with problems?


Just those who are paralyzed?

No, just him. He's saying that he, personally, doesn't want to go on living, and the point is that he should be allowed to have the choice.

In other words, if this play succeeds in its aim the audience will be hoping that the hero dies?

Sort of. At least in this production. When John Neville-Andrews played it at the Folger two years ago, you cared a lot that he shouldn't die because he was so delightfully cheeky. Yet he made such a good philosophical argument that you felt he had won the right to do as he liked. Presumably, Tom Conti and then Mary Tyler Moore won everybody's heart in the Broadway production, too, because they both got Tony Awards for it. But Michael Moriarty, who's doing it at the Kennedy Center now, is agreeable, but not so absolutely charming that you can't bear to see him go.

Is that the only reason in favor of life? Charm?

The medical staff believes in the sanctity of life.

Naturally. Surely they must make a convincing case.

In the Folger production, the head doctor at least made a strong case. But in this one, Jack Gwillim has him swagger so much about the Godlike powers of being a doctor that you miss the fact that he has a real dedication to human life.

So he loses?

Say -- how much do you think I'm going to tell you about this play, anyway?