A New ‘Suicide’ Solution

No Rules Theatre Co. brings a difficult topic out of the darkness and onto the stage

June 7, 2012

Jason (Brian Sutow, left) tries to save suicidal kids in memory of his own deceased younger brother, Tommy (Dylan Jackson, right).

If you could choose them, what would your last words be? “Geronimo!”? “Goodbye, cruel world”? “That’s not so many alligators”?

For some of the characters in “Suicide, Incorporated,” a production from No Rules Theatre Company that plays through June 23, this is a paramount question. And they turn to a fictional start-up called Legacy Letters for help expressing their feelings.

For director (and co-artistic director of No Rules) Joshua Morgan, the play isn’t just about suicide. It’s about American masculinity and the way men are raised to avoid talking about feelings.

“Our inability to ask for help, to say, ‘I’m sad,’ is why so many men end up killing themselves,” he says, citing findings by the National Institute of Mental Health that men are four times more likely to kill themselves than women are. “We all have skeletons in our closet, and the play is about what happens, at a certain point, when we don’t deal with our bulls [expletive].”

The characters of “Suicide, Incorporated” talk about everything related to suicide — other than the fact that it ultimately ends in death. Jason (Brian Sutow), a new writer at the company, has a dark secret, while CEO Scott (Joe Isenberg) thinks in terms of market shares and product packages, ignoring the moral implications of the words he’s selling.

In staging the play, Morgan found visually potent ways to represent the weighty emotions undergirding the play. “In the corner, there’s this massive mound of suicide notes, and right in the middle of them is a door,” he says. “People are constantly walking through it and never dealing with the notes — never looking at them, never acknowledging them, but they’re there.”

And where does one obtain a pile of suicide notes? On the Internet, of course. The “Suicide, Incorporated” team searched online and found last words from people, both famous and ordinary, who took their own lives. “They run the gamut,” says Morgan. “Some of them are hilarious and some of them are just heartbreaking. The one that kills me the most is one line. It says, ‘Jack, I wish you would have believed me.’”

H Street Playhouse, 1365 H St. NE; through June 23, $25.
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