2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Death Be Not Loud!’

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Susan Jackson’s new play, Death Be Not Loud—produced by the Southern Railroad Theatre Company and billed as “a contemporary Southern comedy”—is a sweet reflection on love and loss, featuring two gifted actors whose lives are largely consumed by memories of the departed.

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Of course, the departed don’t all leave in the same way. Some people die. Others desert. Yet the sense of abandonment lingers.

Jackson, who is both the playwright and co-producer, plays Marion, the elegant yet soon-to-be-divorced wife of a judge who has left her for a younger woman and who won’t even talk to her on the phone. Marion takes comfort in her martinis while she broods about betrayal.

Diana Brown, the other half of the co-production team, plays Red. A more down-to-earth woman, Red mourns her mother, a caring and deeply religious soul who died three years after suffering a stroke. Diana drowns in memories—some funny and some sad—and tells her departed mother about the nursing home and the people they met.

While Marion’s anger is aimed at the Other Woman—and at the soon to be ex-husband who won’t even talk to her on the phone—Red addresses her rage at the nurses who are so busy watching reality shows on television that they can’t be bothered to take her mother to the potty. She cusses at them as loud as she can, even though her mother wouldn’t have liked it.

Both women are played with a touching blend of humor and malice, and both display a kind of toughness that lets us know that they, like other Southern women, will find a way to survive.

Their stories are told in alternating soliloquies, and though amusing in parts, the play doesn’t really come alive until the two women connect. It’s not till they find each other, sitting in a church while they wait for a funeral of someone they didn’t care about, that they discover their commonality.

FINAL - DEATH BE NOT LOUD! Square ad for DC MetroWesley Cayabyab, the director of this very thoughtful play, does a fine job bringing movement to an otherwise static situation. Props, such as martini glasses and a handbag, a Polaroid and an envelope, give substance to the talk. And the costumes, at the funeral, are perfect.

But the structure of the play needs work. It would help if all four of the monologues were to be tightened, then cut into quickly alternating sequences, so that the play more closely resembled the duet—or “two-handed comedy”—that it strives to be.

Yet comedy it is, nevertheless. And for anyone who enjoys a Southern-style laugh, Death Be Not Loud is a relatively quiet respository of down-home humor.

Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.

Death Be Not Loud  plays through July 16, 2016 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library – Central Library  901 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

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Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.

RATING:  BEST OF THE CAPITAL FRINGE!

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