“Suicide Notes: In Their Own Words”, written and directed by Stan Zimmerman, delivers exactly what the title says, and does so theatrically, movingly, informatively, and with elegant simplicity—just four actors standing on the stage reading from notes, sometimes assisted with pictures on a screen of the suicide note writer.
Zimmerman has balanced the text perfectly, bringing dignity to the sad fact of suicide while never getting maudlin. And while suicide notes themselves can be powerful testaments, as a director, Stan Zimmerman has brought pace, rhythm and between-actor interaction that builds to an appropriate climax (a little broad for my taste, but not IN-appropriate), transforming potentially non-theatrical recitation into powerful Theater.
It is no small point of interest that the writer/director is by profession a comedy writer—TV sitcoms and more recently some very funny plays. “Suicide Notes” is definitely not a comedy. In fact, this is Zimmerman’s first non-comedy work. Yet the piece (not strictly a “play”) is imbued with a writer’s chops. How many suicide notes must there be to cull through? He has edited well, and tied them together with some facts and statistics (not too many!), which support the inherent drama with…how else to say it: valuable information.
From the poignant (Virginia Woolf), to witty (George Sanders); the just plain sad (Clara Blandick, who played Auntie Em in the Wizard of Oz), and for me, the most powerful of all from a U.S. Army soldier back from a second “tour” in Iraq, the “notes” are all interesting, written by people with the hand to express their pain, sadness, regret and even bitter-sweet happiness as they look hopefully to the afterlife for solace. Moving stuff, but surprisingly, never depressing.
There are also several notes—letters, really—from gay and transgender people, and a strong point is made about the effects (result) of school bullying. Zimmerman hopes to take “Suicide Notes: In Their Own Words” to schools and youth organizations. One could not imagine a more fitting vehicle to convey its intended healing message.
This show has strong legs, and should, in a perfect world, be around for a very long time. Kudos, Mr. Zimmerman.
(Stephen Jerrome; June 28, 2015)