Feeling blue? Aggrieved? Put upon? Thinking of ending it all? Well, you’re in good company, at least during the run of Andrew Hinderaker’s mordant comedy-drama Suicide, Incorporated at Roundabout Underground. Of its six characters, at least four have either offed themselves or plan to. Maybe the other two are merely keeping quiet about their incipient self-slaughter.
Suicide launches with a nifty Kafka-lite premise. Jason (Gabriel Ebert) applies for a job at a firm that helps the despairing craft their final missive. Its slogan: “Legacy Letters: Words to be remembered by.” As Jason’s brother, Tommy (Jake O’Connor), dryly observes, “It’s kind of a morbid profession you’ve chosen.” Of course Jason has ulterior motives. Rather than giving his clients an eloquent shove into the sweet hereafter, he wants to yank them back from the brink.
Hinderaker’s script is an odd, though not unlikable, mix of the original and the clichéd. Some of its strategies genuinely surprise. Others are as predictable as taxes, death, and wet days in April. The all-male cast is fine, with Toby Leonard Moore delighting in his role as a smarmy boss and James McMenamin, as Jason’s client, lending his lines a depressive’s slur. Ebert, his hair shorter and his smile more pinched than in this season’s 4000 Miles, again reveals a multi-layered character, though director Jonathan Berry indulges his tendency toward pauses and significant stares and seems to have imported it to the rest of the cast.
Still, the direction and the writing typically walk a neat line between the deeply felt and the patently absurd, arguing, tenderly, for the saving possibility of human connection. Should that closing move sound a touch too earnest, note that there’s dark humor here, too—even in the sound design. Before the play starts, the speakers blare an assortment of execrable ’80s hits by the likes of Phil Collins and ELO. Just a little something to get you in the mood for suicide.