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‘Suicide, Incorporated’ Explores Mortality’s Worth, Will

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CHICAGO – The eponymous subject matter of Andrew Hinderaker’s enthralling new work “Suicide, Incorporated” is hardly a newfangled muse to dramatists. The concept of one’s self-sanctioned execution has inspired the minds of media architects from Poe to the executives at Lifetime Television Network (the latter of which tends to default to the exertion habitually). The question of an individual opting to terminate his life, especially when the meaning of which plagues the majority of us, is nary an easy one. Hinderaker’s take on the matter, both in stylized approach and explication, proves to be one of the most cerebrally exigent of the lot.

HollywoodChicago.com Comedy/Tragedy Rating: 4.5/5.0
Play Rating: 4.5/5.0

Eschewing the more commonplace settings of the emergency room and crisis center, Hinderaker unspools his ruminations in the context of Legacy Letters, an iniquitously capitalist company on the opposite end of the funeral homes.

Joshua Rollins and Michael Patrick Thornton in “Suicide, Incorporated”” target=
Joshua Rollins and Michael Patrick Thornton in “Suicide, Incorporated”
Photo credit: Emily McConnell

Helmed by Scott (Ed Flynn), the small conglomerate aims to assist those-in adequate style-who lean toward quietus. Employees offer authorial insight to clients wishing to compose suicide notes that boast more in the way of syntactic polish than their clichéd predecessors (“Farewell cruel world” is seen as a lesser oeuvre here). Initially trenchant in its satire, “Suicide” quickly unveils the more meditative face in its brutality.

Platinum deals and comprehensive packages are frequently supplied to the mostly male consumer base, with one Spring Special coming up that provides an admirable discount to those patrons who still prefer a bit in the way of rebate. Scott has craftily discovered that there is indeed much room for profit when it comes to the business of death.

As long as the customer goes through with the finale, that is.

Hinderaker expertly navigates the grounded nuances fostered by his abstract surroundings, posing questions that range from the conventional (the mortal distance that provides survivors a stark hindsight) and refreshingly abrasive (the potential morality of self-injury). Such tenors are explored, but not answered, through the relationship between saboteur client Norm (the harrowing Michael Patrick Thornton) and scribe Jason (Joshua Rollins). Harboring his own past with a familial suicide, Jason assumes the newfound position as an avenue for tactful prevention rather than lexical counseling.

”Suicide, Incorporated” at The Gift Theatre” target=
Suicide,Incorporated” at The Gift Theatre “
Photo credit: Emily McConnell

It is a clever if quaint conceit. But what makes the piece warranting of its abiding imprint is hardly Hinderaker’s tackling of the grieving process that accompanies death’s surprise. He is a playwright uninterested- and seemingly unwilling- to entertain the more wonted side of human conduct.

“Suicide, Incorporated” opts instead to explore a soul-challenging notion: what if one’s alacrity to play God is really the best bargain?

StarMore theater reviews from critic Alissa Norby.
StarMore theater reviews from our other critics.

Thornton, a now sought-after screen actor thanks to a starring role on ABC’s “Private Practice”, serves an emotionally calibrated and wholly impelling turn. Thornton renounces the prototypically hapless portrayals of suicide victims, sketching Norm in life’s uncanny capacity for disillusionment rather than disenfranchisement. It is a decision that tenders a searing performance.

Told partly in flashback as well as the unfoundedness of second chances, Jonathan Berry’s invested direction allows the work to breathe between both temporal and quixotic ether. There is ultimately much to be learned- and lived- in the chosen face of death. But Hinderaker is brisk to assure us that the curtain may never be quite so clear.

“Suicide, Incorporated” runs through July 25, 2010 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee. in Chicago.. To purchase tickets or for more information please visit here. For half-price Chicago theater tickets, visit our partner Goldstar.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Alissa Norby

Staff Writer

© 2010 Alissa Norby, HollywoodChicago.com

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