SUICIDE THEATRE, aka THE LITTLE THEATRE – When you spend your life happily wallowing in oddities like I do, you often get the mistaken impression that everybody must be as aware of the out of the way nuggets of joyous weirdness as you are. I was assuming that the presence of future Star Trek star Deforest Kelley in the surviving footage of this incredible television rarity made Suicide Theatre as well-known as Mr Spock’s ears. Today I had a conversation with two very special ladies (and you know who you are – I’m kidding) who are usually pretty deeply immersed in the weirdass wonders of life but they had never heard of this show.
In a way it’s serendipity that a recognizable face like Kelley portrays the unfortunate man contemplating suicide in this playlet followed by psychological commentary on depression and suicide PLUS critical evaluation of the performers in the playlet. If it was an unknown figure starring as the down-on-his- luck character in this one and only example of Suicide Theatre plenty of people (myself included) would probably be convinced the surviving footage must be a hoax with modern-day people dressed up in 1950’s clothing and surrounded by 1950’s-era furniture.
I first watched this bad boy in the 1980’s, long before it could become an instant viral video like it would today. A very young and uncharacteristically smiling DeForest Kelley stars in this Suicide Theatre episode titled The Bitter End. Things aren’t going well for Kelley’s character. No more girlfriend and no job, which of course means no money to pay the rent. His landlord is leaning on him, with our increasingly downbeat and suddenly unsmiling hero finding all his hopes pinned on the results of his recent job interview.
When the brittle landlord informs him his potential employer is on the phone Kelley’s schlep jubilantly grabs the earpiece and begins babbling his gratitude only to slowly realize the man was calling him to tell him he DIDN’T get the job. If you thought Travis Bickle getting turned down for a date for the umpteenth time in Taxi Driver was an uncomfortable scene to watch, try and sample this little honey.
Now at the end of his rope, DeForest grabs DeMatch and sticks his head in DeStove (Thank you! I’m here all week!) intent on ending his misery long before he can torment Leonard Nimoy with his relentless xenophobic harassment on Star Trek. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, Kelley’s character hasn’t paid his gas bill so the gas to the stove has been cut off. Rather than snap and throw his sorry ass out the nearest window, DeForest just laughs philosophically, shakes his head and mutters “How do you like that? I can’t even afford to die!”
Next would follow the psychological profile and thespian critique, with the two features presumably combined if some poor actor’s performance was panned so badly that they immediately took their own life. (“Boss, I got a PERFECT idea for Episode Two if we get picked up as a series!”) Unfortunately we’ll never know if this show’s producers would have had every attempted suicide on the show thwarted if this had been a hit or if some characters would have actually succeeded in taking their own life, like Adam Sandler did in real life. (Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?)
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