Legacy Letters offer an interesting service: get a well-crafted suicide note for a price. Think of it as antithesis to Hallmark, a contrast also provided by the playwright (Andrew Hinderaker) as we see our lead character walk away from a career writing Valentine’s Day cards in favour of something far less palatable. He has his reasons, and we’ll eventually see it unravel in Suicide, Inc.
The setup is too ‘out there’ to be believable, but maybe it’s set in an alternate universe so broken that a company offering such a niche, taboo—even deplorable—service can exist or even keep afloat well enough to afford an office and pay for at least 3 full-time employees.
(READ: Twin Bill Theater Raises Mental Health Awareness in Suicide Incorporated)
Are we looking at our own bleak future? Maybe. The suicide rate in the Philippines is one in 100,000, and without mental health awareness, the number could potentially rise. Twin Bill Theater tries to get one step ahead of the possibility as it sets out to spread the word with this production.
Jason (Hans Eckstein) has a new job as an editor of suicide notes. We meet his free-spirited younger brother, Tommy (Bibo Reyes), who quips that the new job is a little morbid. He comes to work and meets his new boss, Scott (Jeremy Domingo), and his loyal-albeit-overlooked employee, Perry (Chino Veguillas).
Scott is a true businessman, envisioning a bright future for his company, despite its macabre service… if only they had more clients. The male suicide market is a lucrative but impenetrable one, you see. One in three people who commit suicide are men, driven by their machismo to suppress weaknesses. Enter Norm (Mako Alonso), a somber everyman who is sure about the irreversible decision he’s about to make. Jason is assigned his case, and in the guise of helping him craft a great letter, tries to stall him from committing the act.
Jason’s true intentions are revealed, as is the real reason that drove him to Legacy Letters in the first place. The story—which started out as a dark comedy—shifts gear into something darker and more emotional. Every story unspools abruptly and in rapid succession. The story of Norm’s life, in particular, felt like a roller-coaster ride in narrative form. Even Perry, initially a comic relief, meets a somewhat shocking resolution to his story.
The stage (by Ed Lacson) is dark yet almost sterile, devoid of warmth. It’s made of moving parts and every set change is carried out by the protagonist himself against a ticking clock. This is by design, according to director (Steven Conde), to punctuate the pressure Jason is in throughout the entire story.
It’s not very subtle storytelling, with the show’s point and purpose delivered to the audience on a silver platter (or, in this case, via powerpoint presentation of suicide stats right before curtain call). Preachy, sure, but suicide is not exactly a topic where one should be mincing words, and the show did achieve the goal it set out to accomplish: perform art in the service of an important advocacy.
The show will run from Fridays-Sundays until July 31 at The P.A.R.C (Performing Arts and Recreation Center).
Have you seen the show? What did you think?