An Intense World Premiere Drama from North Coast Repertory Theatre

Brendan Ford and Frank Corrado (photos courtesy of Aaron Rumley).

Brendan Ford and Frank Corrado (photos courtesy of Aaron Rumley).

It is hard to humanize people who commit horrible acts of evil. The intense world premiere of Sense of Decency, from North Coast Repertory Theatre, is an unsettling experience as audiences learn about the life of the notorious Reichmarschall Hermann Göring (Frank Corrado).

Based on Jack El-Hai’s book, “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist,” the tale begins in 1946 as psychiatrist, Dr. Douglas McGlashan Kelley (Brendan Ford) gets ready for his next patient. He is preparing to meet Hermann, who is in jail for his war crimes as a leader of the Nazi party.

As Douglas continues to visit Hermann in his jail cell, the doctor begins to empathize with the unconventionally charismatic criminal, which leads to increasing conflicts with his wife, Dukie Kelley (Lucy Davenport).

Jake Broder’s script depicts Hermann as multilayered. He writes the Nazi official as someone who has taken part in horrible and unforgivable actions but is also jovial, intelligent, and a deeply devoted family man. Treating the controversial figure like a human being instead of a villain shows how seemingly personable people are still capable of horrific crimes.

Ford and Corrado are compelling to watch as the conversations between Douglas and Hermann become deeper and increasingly unnerving. The co-leads made me invested in their fates, even though both are revealed to be deeply flawed.

As the wives of both Douglas and Hermann, Davenport showcases the fascinating relationships that Dukie and Emmy Goring had with their spouses. Davenport emotionally depicts the former’s love and issues in her marriage, while her scenes as Emmy reveal information about Hermann’s complicated personality.

Lucy Davenport and Brendan Ford.

Lucy Davenport and Brendan Ford.

Artistic Director, David Ellenstein, and co-director, Broder, start the night off in a deceptively cheery manner depicting a normal day for Douglas. Their direction creates a darker tone as the medical doctor spends time in Hermann’s cell (set designer, Marty Burnett, and lighting designers, Matt Novotny and Eric Montierth, are responsible for the grim visuals).

Although the production is a solid one, there are a few directorial decisions that could be worked on as the run continues. Douglas and Dukie’s phone calls are often shown with Brendan on the left side of the stage and Lucy on the right side. Having them move freely around the space might help these discussions feel more visually expressive.

Pacing issues start to occur as Douglas’ visits with Hermann end. Although many might feel that the production is about to wrap up, there is still a good amount of scenes left focused on his personal and professional life.

An intermission at the Solana Beach venue would benefit the piece, because it will create additional buildup for the emotionally draining and tragic final third of the play.

Sense of Decency is a bleak drama with tough dialogue and a haunting true story at its center. It succeeds at making theatregoers think about how morality and complacency continue to be relevant topics.

View the program online.

Show times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m, Thursdays at 7:00 p.m, Fridays at 8:00 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m and 8:00 p.m, and Sundays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m.

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North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Suite D Solana Beach CA 92075 USA Work Phone: (858) 481-1055 Website: North Coast Repertory Theatre website
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