Set on a stoop in a Staten Island neighborhood, The Good Death covers a lot of ground: Alzheimer’s, caregiving, mental illness, the American Jewish experience, euthanasia, marriage equality, and familiar familial tensions between siblings who will never truly see eye to eye.
As we open, Chuck and Mary have been tasked with cleaning out their their childhood home to get it ready for sale.
Scott Mandel as Chuck is by far the stronger actor; his Chuck seems uncomfortable but warily caring from the start, and you sense that he is the sibling with a better handle on events. Mary, as played by Nicole Cardoni, doesn’t quite give the audience the shivers she’s meant to; though there are hints at something amiss, her delivery hasn’t quite the edge that’s written into the lines.
The actors struggle to achieve the Staten Island accent. But it isn’t really germane to the story, and is more than a little wince-inducing to hear them not quite nail those accents.
This Fringe one act should best be viewed as a bit of a work in progress. There are some quite rippingly funny lines – the bones of the play are quite good – it’s quite a while before the siblings’ squabbling turns into actual conflict. The solid comedy gets skipped over in spots, though it should be said that with an opening audience of less than twenty people, it might have been a simple matter of not having enough folks in the house.
The Good Death
Running time: 55 minutes
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Jenny Statler’s direction has the play running like a freight train on a track with no stops along the way. Let’s hope the cast learns to breathe a bit and wait for the laughs to come. It’s worth the wait, for the denouement, though expected, is powerful.
The script by actors Nicole Cardoni and Scott Mandel has some originality, and with a little polishing and editing it could be a zinger of a one act. Humor here is used not to soften an audience but to draw attention to things underneath the script- that’s tough to do, but The Good Death succeeds more often than not.
The Good Death by Nicole Cardoni and Scott Mandel . Director: Jenny Statler . Cast: Scott Mandel as Chuck, Nicole Cardoni as Mary . Composer: John Bell . Produced by Old Norman Productions . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.