North Coast Repertory Theatre Presents the World-Premiere Play "Sense of Decency"

Exploring the Psyche and Questioning the "What Ifs"

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti 

 Brendan Ford & Frank Corrado  - Photo by Aaron Rumley

When creatives allow audiences to glance at their mind through their projects, sometimes it is hard to handle. Such was the case with North Coast Rep's world-premiere play Sense of Decency, written by Jake Broder, directed by NCR Artistic Director, David Ellenstein and co-directed by Broder. 
Set between 1946 and 1958 the play takes place in The States and in Germany starting with newlyweds Dr. Douglas McGlashan Kelley (Brendan Ford) and his wife Dukie Kelley (Lucy Davenport). Their relationship even though new, is solid. Douglas is getting ready to travel to Germany for a hefty stay as he will be interviewing Hermann Göring (Frank Corrado), the highest-ranking Nazi alive, preparing him for trial. Based on the book “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” by Jack El-Hai, Jake Broder takes the audience through the psychiatrist's impressions and feelings while spending time with Göring as well as documenting the experience to write a book. What starts as something promising for the doctor takes strange and subliminal turns that will leave lingering thoughts prompting questioning conversations and an unwelcomed outcome.

Lucy Davenport & Brendan Ford. - Photo by Aaron Rumley

Experiencing this piece, Broder was taking us through his own impressions and questions about the history of this along with what conversations took and might have taken place during the Nuremberg trials. The direction of the play hit the mark as it is punctual and pertinent handling the delicate subject matter based on true facts. Having a co-direction with the playwright worked as there was a crescendo in all three actors for each of them to reach catharsis. Brendan Ford as Dr. McGlashan starts happy, optimistic, and looking forward to what is to come, with a solid footing and knowing what he needs to do, to then get caught up and wrapped in Göring's emotional maze, delivered masterfully by Frank Corrado as he modulates and gesticulates flawlessly. Because the interaction throughout the 90-minute with no intermission piece happens mostly between Ford and Corrado, it would seem that Lucy Davenport's character for Dukie is a side one but no, Davenport is an ace as she also incarnates Emmy Göring, Hermann's wife and, I believe that was a check-mate-move on the playwright's part because the audience is truly invested at that point. That artistic decision is carried well by the actress who separates the two with their own personas in a way that would seem there were two different people on that stage. 

Marty Burnett's scenic design divides the space in three and holds the middle part for Göring's cell and the interviews while the other two fold in and out serving as space for different settings rounded by Audrey Casteris's props. The folding sides are also key as they unfold revealing scenes that add to the already tense experience accompanied by Matthew Novotny's lighting design along with Eric Montierth in the co-design that involved chill-provoking shadows, fading to black, and warm browns. The lighting, sound design by Steve Leffue, and projections by Mat FitzGerald are melodic, and in tune with what is happening on stage prompting visual stimulation while the sound enhances those already present chills mentioned. It would have been interesting to be a fly-in-the-wall during those creative meetings to see what the artistic direction/decisions were being made to mold this play. 

Elisa Benzoni's costume design for Lucy was practical and simple contrary to the other two actors who wore suits and uniforms. Yet for Lucy, it was still functional as a simple shawl marked the change from one character to another. Peter Herman's hair design worked for Lucy as for Brendan Ford. Frank Corrado wore a wig and even though it added to the character, I consider it needed work as the lining showed and popped from the back. 

Jack El-Hai’s book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist also inspired a film that is currently in production in Hungary, starting Russell Crowe as Göring, Rami Malek as Kelley, and Michael Shannon as the Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson –chief prosecutor. 

The title "Sense of Decency" is fitting as it is telling. The topics are difficult but remembrance is important. The creative work around this production is worth it.

Currently playing until May 12. For information on ticket prices, dates, and times, please click here


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