By Margret Echeverria
There was a time millennials won’t remember, when friendships were made in person, usually in someone’s living room, sharing bits of ourselves in old soft chairs under imitation Tiffany lamps as we talked into the night, sharing a couple liters of ginger ale from a green plastic bottle. Actor-Playwrite, Chris Gethard’s Career Suicide, invites us into this space for a get-to-know-Chris conversation. The stage is surrounded by ‘70’s Ethan Allen shabby chic – you may remember when we all wanted to feel like we lived in a cabin year-round – couches of plaid cushions and hard dark wood. There are even a couple of table lamps in shades turned amber with age. Front row audience members sit on these historical pieces creating the intimate space subtly designed by Brendan Boston. Seventy-five minutes later, we have met a sweetheart of a mess of a man and are left wondering why we didn’t get his number so that we can invite him to our next dinner party.
This is a one-person show, but it is not a showcase for how many people Gethard can become in a very short period of time. Gethard begins the show as though he is introducing the piece and will walk off the stage to then walk back on again to start. But he never walks off. He just starts from that quiet place and makes us his friend. There is no sweat to create a wild scandalous tale that may or may not be true while our kidneys drop out of our bodies to make room for breathless laughter at his larger than life life. Gethard simply tells us the real absurd truth about himself, his longtime companion, Clinical Depression, and the rather unconventional, often scary dark, sometimes slightly scandalous, truly silly trip they have taken together.
Before you bail crying, this is too familiar because Clinical Depression is a character we have all met before, hang on a second; it’s about to get real. If you grew up in North Jersey, like Gethard, you learned how to ignore depression, not talk about it, toughen up, make fun of it – push it down into the plaid cushions. Director Kimberly Senior employs a raw method of storytelling that is without overly theatric distractions. Nothing feels contrived. We’re compelled by the truth Gethard is relating because it feels like he trusts us, like we have a common knowledge of darkness and he will be the one tonight to fearlessly talk about it and awaken the humor that lives in it. Also, to the delight of this reviewer, Gethard improvises moments in the show in which he connects directly with audience members. The humor is risky, edgy, slightly dangerous because it is dark – a little disgusting – and the result is that because he’s made it clear that he trusts us, we trust and come along. It’s like we’re at a small house party that has gone quiet because someone is making things really fun by truly being himself.
Gethard wants you to know that this bitch of a disease makes for setbacks one must forgive in oneself; it brings even more insanity in the guise of those in authority who have endeavored to help – and in this part of the show we find a little titillating scandal, if we are hankering for it. But more importantly Gethard emphasizes that depression does not have to stop anyone from having a full, absurd, love-filled life and, okay, a good story to tell.
This reviewer recommends dropping into the cozy living room of Career Suicide, settling into the amber light and taking a trip through Gethard’s life, from a bone-breaking power dwarf who terrorized his family as a kid, to college where his consciousness left his body and went on a walk about in a batman mask, to a long slow dance with death, to professional help that nearly killed him, to an acting career on the fringe and finally to the quirks of love and the wisdom that come with survival. Gethard is an excellent host who will make sure you have a good time.
CAREER SUICIDE presented by Judd Apatow, Mike Berkowitz and Brian Stern
Written and performed by Chris Gethard, Directed by Kimberly Senior
Set by Brendan Boston, Lights by Jen Schriever and Trevor Dewey, Sound by Ryan Rumery, Production Stage Management by Joshua Kohler
Producers, Mike Lavoie and Carlee Briglia. Co-Producers, David De Almo and Rebecca Crigler
Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleeker Street, New York. TICKETS through Sunday November 27th.