Play explores complexities of suicide
Reminders of mortality spur many into action in an attempt to fit as much into life as they can.
For others, death is less like a clock to be beat and more of a welcome end. Such is the case for the character of Jessie in Marsha Norman's play "night, Mother" to be performed by Wolf Pack Theater starting Friday, May 31.
The one-act production depicts what could be the last actions of Jessie as she prepares the house she shares with her mother, Thelma — leaving notes on the whereabouts of essential items, stocking snacks and the like — for after she's killed herself. Jessie announces her suicidal intentions to her mother within the first few minutes of the play. From then on the play is an ongoing battle and series of shared memories as Thelma fights to keep Jessie alive.
"It's almost like (Thelma) goes through the stages of grief as she's trying to keep Jessie in this world," said director Sharon Biermann.
Jessie is middle-aged, has an adult son who lives elsewhere, and lives with her mother as the result of a messy divorce because epileptic fits keep her from maintaining a job. It has been speculated that though Thelma is not incompetent, she lets Jessie take care of her to give her purpose.
But neither that purpose nor anything else seems to sway Jessie from her determination to terminate her life. And Thelma is fit to be tied because, as Biermann put it, "How can a mother convince her daughter that life is worth living if she can't feel her pain?"
"It's a really poignant piece," noted Biermann. "It's an interesting piece for our time period."
Biermann added that the piece has been a difficult one to digest and depict not only because of the sensitive subject matter, but because she personally has "very negative feelings about (suicide)."
This play will be prefaced with a warning that the content could be intense or uncomfortable for some audience members. Parents are advised to bring their children at their own discretion.