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7 Lessons on Suicide

Goethe Institut Gallery, 812 7th St. NW

Remaining Performances:

Tuesday, July 20th, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 21st, 10 p.m. Saturday, July 24th, 10 p.m. Sunday, July 25th, 3:30 p.m.

They say: A pitch-black comedy that asks: “In a world where everyone is clamoring to end it all, why bother living?”

Chris’s take: At its simplest, 7 Lessons on Suicide is about a man who intercedes after he learns (through a suicide note delivered too soon) that his former long-term girlfriend is about to kill herself.  Stanley locates Hannah at a party thrown by a group of soon-to-be suicides, but when he intervenes the hosts tie him to a chair to prevent his prevention.  The premise is clever, and surprisingly humorous given that the number of living characters dwindles as the party progresses.

The suicidal confederates are a mismatched bunch, comprised of a woman who has gone through breast cancer (she seems almost normal), a woefully awkward postal employee (he makes Cliff Clavin on Cheers look normal), and crazy cat ladies Bea and Eunie (they have chosen suicide because their beloved feline has disappeared).

Stanley is our surrogate in this odd society, by all appearances a normal guy whose instinct is to try to talk Hannah down. That he does, but Hannah’s motivations to kill herself are obscure, and it is difficult to follow what logic makes her change course.

All in all, the premise of 7 Lessons is more interesting than the play itself. It has clever moments — Stanley pulling a gun on Hannah to prevent her suicide — but too few.  The tone is odd and sardonic, as when the mailman imagines his own bizarre immolation on a post office conveyor belt. The play, like so many of its characters, comes to an inexplicable end: The denouement simply doesn’t add up in light of what we know about the characters.

See it if: You like your humor dark.

Skip it if: You think you might want to kill yourself.