Review: SENSE OF DECENCY at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Playing through May 12th

By: Apr. 26, 2024
Review: SENSE OF DECENCY at North Coast Repertory Theatre
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 “Sense of Decency” makes its world premiere using misdirection, manipulation, and magic to try to find the difference between a monster and a man.  “Sense of Decency” is playing at North Coast Repertory Theatre through May 12th.

Written by Jake Broder, this play is based upon the real-life interactions between U.S. Army psychiatrist Douglas M. Kelly (Brendan Ford), and Nazi leader Hermann Göring (Frank Corrado) post-World War II just before the Nuremberg Trials.  Kelly is sent there in a professional capacity to asses the mental state of Göring, among other Nazi prisoners, to make sure they were competent to stand trial.

As their conversations and trust build between them, it is clear that they have many things in common.  Both men are intelligent, with challenging childhoods though both came from moneyed families and have supporting wives.  Kelly cannot help but wonder what has caused this man and his colleagues to commit such horrific acts.  Kelly's ultimate goal is to write a book about it so the world can learn from this and avoid it in the future. 

Review: SENSE OF DECENCY at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Ford as Kelly is likable, empathetic, and open, it is easy to see him as someone people would want to talk to.  As the show progresses, we see how Kelly is impacted by his work with Göring, and how it changes him.  Corrado as Göring, is amiable and shrewd, he is proud of his aristocratic lineage and easily admits to allowing horrific things to happen that he didn’t necessarily endorse, for his gain. He is assessing Kelly as much as Kelly is him.

Lucy Davenport plays both Kelly's wife Dukie and Göring’s wife Emmy - two very different women but are both undeniably as impacted by these events as their husbands.

Review: SENSE OF DECENCY at North Coast Repertory Theatre

The scenic design by Marty Burnett has the jail cell as the central focus, but very cleverly has other set pieces swing out for additional locations.  The lighting design by Matt Novotny and Eric Montierth is atmospheric, with a particularly effective effect in the third act.  Sound design by Steven Leffue compliments it all and becomes more harrowing as the play and the character developments build. Period costumes by Elisa Benzoni and projections by Matt Fitzgerald complete the setting for the play.

Adapted from the book “The Nazi and The Psychiatrist” by Jack El-Hai, Broder's play follows how this unique experience impacted Kelly for the rest of his life.  The play makes some relevant points about how U.S. laws on race purity and segregation were helpful to the Germans when they were trying to codify racism and genocide themselves.  

The play has a lot of exposition, with most of that information being discussed between Kelly and his wife who are recently married. This is the majority of their discussion, as he reports back and she gives suggestions- but the events in the second act would be more impactful with a bit more of their relationship featured at the forefront.

Everyone loves to think of those who did terrible things as a monster, it’s easier to feel distanced from them and their actions that way. The truth is more harrowing because there are no monsters, just men, and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

How To Get Tickets 

“Sense of Decency” is running at North Coast Repertory Theatre through May 12th. For ticket and showtime information go to 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aaron Rumley


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