The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church
nytheatre.com review by Anthony Johnston
January 11, 2011
With a title like The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, you might think Daniel Kitson’s newest monologue will be dark and depressing, but this 90-minute one-man show is just the opposite: Kitson’s Interminable Suicide is a captivating, fast-paced, comic delight.
In The Interminable Suicide, Kitson tells the story of his relationship with more than 30,000 letters that came into his possession in 2007. These letters make up the correspondences of one Mr. Gregory Church, a man whom Kitson came to know, quite intimately, through his letters, and whom, in turn, we come to know through Kitson’s powerful story-telling. The letters date back to the early '80s and span nearly three decades, the earliest of them being suicide letters.
As Kitson’s story goes, thirty years ago Gregory Church decided to end his life: he bought a rope for a noose, cancelled the next morning’s milk, and sat down to write fifty-some-odd good-bye letters. These letters—addressed to local shop owners, a bank teller, and even a stranger whom he saw each day waiting at the bus stop outside his house—took Gregory longer to write than he had originally anticipated, thus delaying his intended self-slaughter. As the days went on, and Gregory was still writing and sending out his good-byes, response letters started to arrive for him. And so began a series of correspondences that ultimately saved Gregory’s life.
Kitson’s natural stage presence and self-deprecating humor keep what could become a sappy story always light, quick, and accessible. He is so charming, always entertaining and painstakingly precise. His performance is both messy and controlled. He literally spits his story out, with an extreme, ferocious verbosity—as though the story is a wild animal inside him which he desperately needs to let out. But we immediately feel comfortable with him, he has his audience in the palm of his hand from the very start, hanging on his every word. Not only is Kitson a superb live performer, but with The Interminable Suicide he also proves himself as a writer. He weaves for us a funny, touching, sublimely crafted, and utterly absorbing story not about death, but about life.
The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church beautifully illustrates the importance of having a purpose in life. How absolutely necessary it is as human beings to feel needed. Kitson has found purpose in reading all of Gregory’s 30,000-plus letters and in sharing Gregory’s life with us. Gregory found purpose in connecting with people, in human interaction, in looking forward to hearing from a friend, getting to know people and having an outlet to share himself, having something to offer in the form of advice or support or competition even… these are the things that kept Gregory Church from off-ing himself, and Kitson reminds us that these are the things that are important in our lives as well.