2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘The Good Death’

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The Good Death explores the tension between a brother and sister who must come to grips with their past and make hard decisions about their future.  The play takes place entirely on the stoop of a Staten Island home, where we see items strewn about as if in a yard sale. The playwrights, Scott Mandel and Nicole Cardoni, play the adult brother and sister, Chuck and Mary, with an effortless push-and-pull tension and affection.

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Long-standing resentments between Chuck and Mary surface, but so do sweet memories, bits of nostalgic remembrances of family outings and vulnerable moments together. Mandel and Cardoni have captured the complexity of family relationships: emotions constantly in flux, with our positioning  to each other shifting from love to irritation to fear of being left out of each other’s lives and back again.

Chuck and Mary debate what to do about their mother – she is a palpable presence, always off-stage but looming over the being of the play. What to do about a mother that is elderly and has probably lost her mind? These are hard questions that siblings must ask of one another, and the answer can never be black and white.

The play, directed by Jenny Statler, moves us to consider what we would do in their shoes: and to the show’s credit, our allegiance, too, shifts back and forth between Mary and Chuck.  Statler makes effective use of the close quarters of Flashpoint. Chuck and Mary pace and banter; they sit on a bench together; they yell; they play paper-rock-scissors; they move around constantly.  They feel real, and so do the serious issues with which they grapple.  Mary and Chuck  can be – will be – all of us. I found myself wistfully thinking of my own parents, a sure sign of a play that has hit its mark.

Running Time: 55 minutes, with no intermission.

The Good Death is playing through July 17, 2016, at Mead Theatre Lab: Flashpoint – 916 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.

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