The Suicide Monologues: Stories of Hope by Jackie Kinley tackles the gigantic and massively important issue of confronting and, hopefully, ultimately healing wounds that either cause or exacerbate feeling of depression, anxiety that may lead to thoughts or attempts at suicide. Inspired by patient work this play brings together the stories of four different individuals at varying stages of their journey away from their inner darkness and shows how each one can find strength, compassion and inspiration in the struggles and the triumphs of the others.
This play features four very strong performances by the ensemble. Ryan Kennedy captures nicely the bitterness of the angry young man lashing out at the world. Keelin Jack is heartbreaking trying desperately to claw her way painstakingly toward any kind of flicker of light. Jeremy Webb gives a beautifully nuanced and vulnerable performance as a man who is hurt and broken to the very core and Joanne Miller is incredible as the perfectionist, people pleaser, whose issues only peak out in glimmers from her meticulously dignified, well-ordered facade.
Director Margaret Legere stages the play in the round, making the audience complicit to the group therapy circle, using the houselights so the audience is able to watch one another as well as watching the actors’ performances blurring the lines between fourth wall and reality entirely. I liked how Legere kept bringing the four characters physically closer to one another, slowly, in ways that mirrored exercises that one might experience in a group therapy setting, but also nicely mirroring the emotional connections that are being forged by the four along the way.
What I’d like to know is whether Kinley used actual transcripts from patient’s speeches in therapy to write the play’s dialogue or whether the monologues are more loosely based on patient’s experiences. I think that Verbatim Theatre would be a strong choice for a play of this nature, as, because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, authenticity is imperative. I would have liked to hear more unique speech patterns, ways of expressing oneself and intricate specificities and subtleties so that the four characters stand out clearly as being individuals rather than archetypes. In forty minutes it is nearly impossible to capture the complexity of the massive issues that this play is seeking to tackle and I think it is important to ensure that nothing in this play simplifies, minimizes or trivializes the amount of time and perseverance and setbacks and obstacles are involved in the massive triumph of moving forward from Depression. Using Verbatim Theatre for issue-based plays of this nature tends to help maintain the integrity of the complex grey areas between the worst and the best case scenarios which tend to be the most realistic, resonant and interesting.
I would love to see this piece continue to evolve. With a powerhouse creative team and exploring an important issue immediately pertinent to our society these are stories that deserve to be told and with the potential to help change, and maybe even save, lives.
The Suicide Monologues play at Plan B (2180 Gottingen Street) at the following times:
Plan B @ 8:15 PM
Plan B @ 8:00 PM
Tickets are $7.00 and are available in advance online at this website or 30 minutes before each show at the venue on the day of the performance. All tickets bought in person must be purchased with either cash or credit. For more information please visit this website or call 902.422.7604 between 10:00am and 5:00pm.