The Empty Space is offering a double bill of light-hearted fare with an edge and a late-night show with some gravitas starting Friday.
"The Book of Liz," written by siblings and humorists Amy and David Sedaris, is a comedy that's intentionally a bit cheesy — literally. It follows the misadventures of Sister Elizabeth Donderstock (Kristina Saldana), who makes cheese balls — traditional and smoky — that sustain the existence of Clusterhaven, her religious community. After she starts to feel pushed around and unappreciated by her fellow brothers and sisters, including Rev. Tollhouse (Steve Evans) and Brother Nathaniel Brightbee (Paul Sosa), she ventures beyond Clusterhaven to take her chances in the world. She meets a Cockney-speaking Ukrainian immigrant couple (played by Angela Poncetta and Perrin Swanson) and others who help her adjust to her new life. But will she allow her journey of self-discovery to help destroy her former community?
The show, directed by Michael Pawlowski, also stars Norman Colwell, Tray Trimble Fletcher, Karin Harmon, Heather McCarthy, Brian Purcell, Lexie Watkins and Joyce Weingarden. It runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 18. Suggested admission donation is $15, $10 for students and seniors. Make reservations at esonline.org.
Meanwhile, "Suicide, Incorporated" takes on a heavier topic in the late-night slot.
In the show by Andrew Hinderaker, Jason (Tray Trimble Fletcher) is struggling in his job at Legacy Letters, mostly because he's at a cross-purpose. Rather than help clients, like Norm (Chris Nisbett), craft the perfect suicide note, he would prefer to keep them alive, putting him at odds with boss Scott (Claire Rock) and co-worker Perry (Angela Poncetta).
The show also features Shaquille Hill and Tyler Herzog.
Director Eric Tolley said he connected with the material, saying that as a teen he almost became one of the statistics. (Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest level in nearly 30 years, according to a 2016 data analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics.)
He wrote in an email that, with those numbers, people shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed by talking about it.
"While 'Suicide, Incorporated' has a lot of dark, gallows humor at the heart of it, it is a heartfelt drama and I hope that people will take away that they are not alone even though it seems as if they are. There are support systems out there for them and people that will listen and can relate to their struggles."
The show runs at 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 17 and 18 as well as a 6 p.m. show Sunday. Admission is $5. The Empty Space is at 706 Oak St. For more information, visit esonline.org.