Professional Suicide

Mark Jackson's play attempts to expose mediocrity, but winds up being mediocre itself

Despite its energy and humor, American $uicide may trap its creator, like Chloe Banks, the 22-year-old "over the hill" starlet in the play, in the chasm between being the "next big thing" and "making a comeback." It's not simply that American $uicide feels overly long, wearingly loud, and, at times, like an insider joke aimed at theater professionals. It's the play's relentless and not particularly inflammatory exposé of all things mediocre — from homemade porn to e-commerce to reality TV — that most crucially undermines the creator's clout. "Too many ideas and not enough reason to pay attention to them," says Sam, in despair. I would agree.

While Soviet authorities considered Erdman's The Suicide so incendiary that they suppressed it for half a century and drove its author from the theater, American $uicide is roughly as provocative as a debate in Entertainment Weekly about the best and worst dresses on Oscar night. This mediocrity might be Jackson's entire point: As a shadowy U.S. government official puts it, "It used to be, Sam, that people had ideas they were willing to die for. Nowadays people with ideas just want to live."

Denise Balthrop Cassidy, Beth Wilmurt, and Marty Pistone fuss and fight in American $uicide.
Mark Leialoha
Denise Balthrop Cassidy, Beth Wilmurt, and Marty Pistone fuss and fight in American $uicide.

Details

Through March 11, Tickets are $25-30; call 437-6775 or visit www.zspace.org.
Thick House, 1695 18th St. (between Arkansas and Carolina) S.F.

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But every truly great theater artist must have a bit of a death wish. Erdman committed professional suicide in writing his play. I challenge our local theatrical messiah to carry the same cross.

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