DEATH THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME


The decision to commit suicide is the most personal, defining conflict with self one can imagine, but when a playwright opens his play with the main character taking pills to bring about imminent death, there aren’t too many other dramatic places to go. Interesting - at times even arresting - though it can be, that’s the central problem with Tom Holloway’s AND NO MORE SHALL WE PART, which concludes Williamstown Theatre Festival’s season on the Nikos Stage.

For 70 minutes, Holloway develops a handful of back-story scenes between Pam (played by Jane Kaczmarek), for whose cancer there is no treatment, and her husband Don (Alfred Molina) that deal not so much with Pam’s decision to commit suicide rather than suffer the progressive horrors of her disease than with Don’s aversion to her decision. Holloway gives Don a Roman Catholic background, and an old-fashioned, ethnic patriarchal demeanor, which makes sense, but Don’s motivations seem unnaturally selfish. Without revealing plot details, at key points, both Pam’s and Don’s behavior seem improbable. Why Pam, as a devoted mother, doesn’t breakdown when relating to Don her private goodbyes to her children is puzzling. (And why do Don and Pam have separate bedrooms?) Head-scratching, too, is Don leaving Pam, still alert alone in her bedroom, for the pills to take effect.

The most poignant moment comes not through dialogue but when Don, lying silently on the floor in the hallway outside Pam’s room, rests his hand on the closed door as a distant dog barks. Oddly, the allusion to loyalty is more probing than much else in the play. Director Anne Kauffman approaches the material delicately, sometimes coolly (almost chilly): there are long, silent passages, but they don’t convey much emotion. Kaczmarek and Molina find enough mutual rhythm in dialogue but for a play that seeks to dramatize the most intimate of life and death issues a marriage could confront, there’s little evidence of intimacy between the spouses. It's worth noting that Holloway has composed his play never using the word suicide at all.

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