Even suicide has a target market these days, at least according to Andrew Hinderaker’s dark comedy Suicide, Incorporated, which just opened at Roundabout Underground’s Black Box Theatre. The show’s titular company, Legacy Letters, will write and edit your suicide note in 48 hours or less — but they are in desperate need of more male clients. The problem: Though men represent 80 percent of the world’s self-inflicted deaths, very few of them ask for help, least of all to pen a final farewell.
Enter Jason (Gabriel Ebert), an ex-Hallmark employee with a gift for writing goodbyes. Under the watchful eye of Legacy’s owner, Scott (Toby Leonard Moore), a ”coffee is for closers”-type boss who reads famous suicide notes over breakfast, Jason must pen the perfect letter for Norm (James McMenamin) so that they can rebrand themselves as a service for men. Yet for the plan to work, Norm actually has to go through with it: What’s a suicide note worth if you don’t kill yourself?
But Jason’s true goal is to sabotage Scott’s company by using the notes to talk Legacy’s clients down from the (sometimes proverbial) ledge. His success depends, though, on whether Norm hired Legacy as a cry for help (which is what Jason hopes) or a chance to die with class (as Scott insists).
It’s a bold and twisty premise, one that benefits from the setting: the simple, tiny 62-seat Black Box. Norm’s big confession, aided by McMenamin’s delicate performance of quiet anger, practically unfolds on your lap. The uncluttered Legacy office is cloudy white, silver, and gray, like an imagining of heaven where Jason and Scott clumsily play God. Yet the show plummets whenever the tug-of-war between these three is sidelined for other relationships (Jason and his mysterious brother, or Scott and his tortured assistant). What makes Suicide gripping is its insight into men so determined to kill themselves. If they only reached out to each other, Hinderaker seems to suggest, they might be persuaded to live. B
(Tickets: roundaboutunderground.com or 212-719-1300)