by Garry Schrader · August 15, 2014
Our master of ceremonies is Death, who has a simple message for us: She is not the enemy. She is a part of our lives. There are no good deaths, or bad deaths, only our deaths, simple and perfect. Each death is perfect and unique in its own right, and “echoes into infinity.”
The Death Monologues is written and performed by Giselle Suarez (one monologue is written by Harley Moor), who, her bio tells us, “since the death of her mother…has become very involved with death, working with and assisting others…as a Death Doula, hospice work, end of life and grief counseling, workshops and deaths in dying consciously, ceremony,” and the creation of this set of five monologues, each of which is introduced by the emcee, Death.
Ms. Suarez’s sweetness and sincerity are evident in her performance. The monologues do not go deeply into character, but tend to tonally represent different attitudes toward death: anger, sadness, resignation, acceptance.
The final monologue gives us Ms. Suarez’s story of her own involvement in her mother’s death. I saw more than one audience member wipe away tears as Ms. Suarez described her battle against her mother’s decline, desperately attempting to delay the inevitable by enlisting the use of crystals, feng shui, reiki, and smoothies, and reading aloud to her from her favorite spiritual books, such as “Shaman, Healer, Sage.”
Listen, I’m an old grump. I’m not the target audience for this work. Palliative care lends itself to a palliative philosophy, but philosophy whose point is consolation isn’t very good philosophy. Ms. Suarez seems to admit this at one point, saying, as Death, that the attitude she’s promoting ultimately “isn’t going to do you any good, but might just bring you some peace of mind.”
It seems to me that once one has made the sensible point that death is not an enemy, and that the attempt to deny death’s inevitability and presence in our lives makes our lives smaller and more meaningless, there is little value in going on to personify death as someone who loves us and just wants to dance. More than once in Ms. Suarez’s show, I thought of another shaman, Oscar Wilde, who said, “The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”