Sunday, May 15, 2011

SUICIDE, INCORPORATED • R-S Theatrics

So, let's say you've found yourself at the end of your rope and suicide is seemingly your only option.  Well, nobody wants to leave behind a punk-ass note right?  You want to leave a suicide note of import.  A thorough explanation of your distress.  Something your loved ones will remember.  Enter Suicide, Incorporated.

Artistic director Randy Stinebaker discovered this play in Chicago where it premiered at the Gift Theatre.  Playwright Andrew Hinderaker, who wrote this play in memory of a friend, invited Randy to see it, then granted permission for RS Theatrics to present it as the first fully staged reading outside Chicago.  Lucky for us.

(L to R) Mark Saunders (Perry), Mark Kelley (Jason),
Aaron Dodd (Tommy), B. Weller (Scott),
(Front) Kevin Stroup (James) and Charlie Barron (Norm).
Photo credit: Autumn Rinaldi
Scott (B. Weller), founder and CEO of Legacy Letters, has done his research.  He's learned that 80% of suicides involve men, and he intends to mine this fact with his new company, complete with "Spring Specials" and "Platinum Packages".  His intent is to provide professionally written suicide notes for those who want to leave an impression and may be a little unwilling to ask for help.  Already on board is Perry (Mark Saunders).  He's a loyal employee with a penchant for Shakespeare, who is Scott's willing yes man.  The day starts with an interview with Jason (Mark Kelley), a promising ex-employee of Hallmark who is grilled to make sure he's not a crackpot and serious about the job.  When Jason gets his first client, Norm (Charlie Barron), we learn about Jason's hidden agenda, and the reasons behind it.  Although this play begins with an outrageous premise, the heartbreaking truths of people in desperate situations are examined in unexpected ways.

It's neat when you're introduced to this implausible notion at the beginning of a play and you get sucked in with laughter, but then, without you even realizing it, you're totally invested, and before you know it, there are sniffles heard in the audience.  The show takes place inside the cozy confines of Soundstage Productions -- a black-box space with a capacity of around 50, where the action is in your face.  Like Off-Off-Broadway.  Love…

The success of SUICIDE, INCORPORATED is largely due to the incredibly sincere performances of these actors.  B. Weller as Scott, the brains behind the operation, is absolutely hilarious, along with Mark Saunders as Perry, his put-upon but eager assistant.  Mark Kelley's Jason has some significant scenes and is completely amazing in every one of them.  The timing that these guys have in their scenes in the office together was dead-on.  Charlie Barron's scenes as Norm are just as impressive, particularly when he relays the details of the break-up with his wife.  Great work also by Aaron Dodd as Tommy and Kevin Stroup as James.  Much of the credit must also go to the direction of Randy Stinebaker and Christina Rios, who accomplish a seamless balance between a high pace, and an "on the edge of your seat" tensity.

There are some surprises in this play that I will not disclose here, but it's more than worth the price of admission, and a powerful presentation that will stay with you for awhile.  Check it out!


SUICIDE, INCORPORATED

Written by Andrew Hinderaker
Co-Directed by Randy Stinebaker and Christina Rios
Crestwood ArtSpace, 214 Crestwood Court
through May 22 | tickets: $10
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Cast:
B. Weller (Scott), Mark Kelley (Jason), Mark Saunders (Perry), Aaron Dodd (Tommy), Charlie Barron (Norm) and Kevin Stroup (James).

Creative:
Technical direction by Jim Meady.

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