Photo: C. Stanley Photography
It seems like we can pay anybody to do anything for us now a days. Need your lawn mowed? There’s somebody for that. Need your errands run? There’s somebody for that. Even if you need somebody to get you a new razor there’s somebody for that. We have resume writers, college application coaches, and those that will help you break-up with your significant other.
So it’s not too much of a stretch that somebody out there would be willing to write your suicide note. That is the premise of Andrew Hinderaker’s “Suicide, Incorporated”. The self-proclaimed tragicomedy caps off the No Rules Theatre Company’s 2011-2012 season as well as their residence at the H-Street playhouse, which will be closing in 2013. With Suicide Inc, No Rules continues to bring fresh, new perspectives to familiar subjects in our lives.
Despite the morbid mission of the office, Suicide Inc’s CEO Scott (Joe Isenberg) aggressively runs the establishment like it was any other brick and mortar establishment. Scott takes advantage of those on the edge, teetering between living and ending it all, using his client’s vulnerability for a quick buck. He advises employees to, “Knock him further ’til he knows he cannot do this without your help.” Scott’s constant shadow boxing and loud retorts paints him as a man in constant motion, either driven by the need for success or running from something else in his life.
Opposed to all of this is Scott’s new hire Jason (Brian Sutow). A former greeting card writer, he recently left his job to work at a suicide prevention call center and goes undercover to undermine Scott’s business, hoping to help the very people who are being exploited. However it is not as easy as Jason originally hoped. Haunted by demons from his past, Jason struggles not to fall into the same pit as his clients.
A solid supporting cast rounds out the all-male ensemble including Perry (Adam Downs), Scott’s cheery and eclectic underling who has a love for pastels and pens. Spencer Trinwith is a venerable scene-stealer as Jason’s client Norm. Trinwith takes every opportunity to show off his acting chops in the roles of a man with failed marriage thinking about making the ultimate decision with his life.
Director Josh Morgan keeps the action tight and the pace quick with powerful drum riffs that button up every scene in the intermission-less 80 minute production. Scenes still pack a punch without dragging into heavy drama.
Hinderaker tackles society’s secret problem of suicide with a fresh view. Instead of hitting us over the head with common symptoms and the clichéd morale that life is worth living, he explores what it is about the human condition that sees so many suicides happen and why for many it is a silent struggle. There were some plot points I saw coming but the show throws enough curves to keep the audience on its toes.
The idea of a service that writes suicide points out a tragic irony in our society: we are happy to ask for help in just about anything in life, but when it comes to depression and suicide it is a burden we often bare by ourselves.
No Rules Theatre Company’s production of Suicide, Incorporated performs through June 23rd at the H Street Playhouse, located at 1365 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Closest Metro stop: Union Station (Red Line). For more information call 336-462-9182.