April 2024FEATURE

Sense Of Decency at North Coast Rep


By Deborah Vietor

Brilliantly crafted by Playwright Jake Broder in collaboration with David Ellenstein, Creative Director of North Coast Repertory Theater, “Sense of Decency” creates a magic carpet ride the audience is sure to remember.

Running April 17 through May 12, making a world-premiere debut, the play is based on the book “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” by Jack El-Hai. Featuring Frank Corrado as Hermann Goering, Brendan Ford as Dr. Douglas Kelley and Lucy Davenport as the wife of both men, these stunning actors present an exquisite performance within this psychological drama.

Experience magic along with a myriad of emotions. Be entertained, surprised, informed and at times shocked by the complex dialogue of two powerful and influential men. The delivery includes gripping revelations and tremendous insight.

The play follows the story of Hermann Goering, former Reichsmarshal and one of the primary architects of the Nazi police state, (1933-45) known as the Third Reich in Germany and American Psychiatrist, Dr. Douglas Kelley, who meet following World War II, prior to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1945-46.

Kelley is tasked with keeping Goering and 22 war criminals accused of mass genocide fit for the trials as well as preventing them from committing suicide. Broder likens this to “Godzilla meets King Kong.

Launching an an investigation delving into the essence of evil, Kelley learns this essentially becomes his undoing. He aspires to write a book about his findings, experience and desire to save the world.

The “Nazi and the Psychiatrist” is the first book to describe Kelley’s vast collection of personal and professional papers and artifacts from Nuremberg, including medical records of the Nazi defendants, until now hidden for decades.

Goering’s lens involves a way to end the world’s problems through power, dominance and ultimately genocide.

Kelley states: “Too bad we don’t have that much energy to spare making democracy work.”

The fateful meeting, connection and treatment results in profound and unexpected consequences for both men. “Sense of Decency” is a psycho-thriller, a fable utilizing magic, exploring the limits of how far a con can go.

The play becomes a bit of “folie a deux,” often exhibiting the madness of two, as the dialect develops with Kelley believing he is leading the way with magic tricks through therapy, semantics and Rorschach tests. This rises to a crescendo of suspense, engaging until the very last moment.

Broder explains how magic is of the mind and not the eye. We want to be entertained, yet no harm is done as we participate. The con is destructive, resulting in the opposite.

According to Broder, the play addresses the relationship between two very different men, yet with similar traits. At times we may find it difficult to decipher the energy from one man to the other. Each of their wives exhibit influence regarding their decisions in a most well-designed manner.

Following a quick repartee, we witness a dialogue moving at times from a tennis match to a chess game. Goering cuts an imposing larger than life impression both figuratively and literally, with Kelley of average height and build, providing a formidable match for Goering, or is he?

Fascinated by how these men affect one another, we are informed by their behavior, creating our own impressions, acting as both judge and jury. Ultimately left to wonder: are these a group of successful, intelligent, driven businessmen and politicians driven to atrocious acts by Hitler for the sake of power, or are they truly criminally insane?

Broder wants the audience to be completely thrilled for 90 minutes, forming their own opinions and conclusions. He would like us to take it to the world, realizing the arts can ultimately alter humanity for the better.

“History rhymes,” according to Broder, repeating itself in all cultures. Whether the United States, Russia, the current state of affairs in Israel with Hamas, or China, government and hate groups continue to devastate with no concern for humanity.

Although “Sense of Decency” serves to entertain, larger issues loom for the present as this vital content resonates so well with current events.

Can humanity prevent such atrocities in the future and learn from the past? Is man a composite of compassion and monster or are some individuals insane, provoking acts of violence? How can we heal such suffering?

One solution comes to mind which is voting one’s conscience and encouraging our youth to vote on issues and candidates affecting the whole of society. We can remember to remain kind and compassionate to one another daily opening our minds and hearts to new ideas. As humans we are capable of civilized, respectful discussions regarding politics and world affairs.

The film “Nuremberg,” based on El-Hai’s book, “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” is currently in production in Hungary. Starring Russell Crowe (Goering), Rami Malek (Kelley) and Michael Shannon (Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson – chief prosecutor) the film is sure to deliver an exceptional performance of this riveting story.

About Jake Broder: Jake Broder MA is a Playwright, Actor, Screenwriter, and Musician. He is known for “The Patient,” recently filmed with Steve Carrell (TV mini series 2022). He has a recurring role on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” (2014), and “The Morning Show (2019), Apple TV. Broder played Ira Gershwin in “Words By: Ira Gershwin. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Lucy and children Ella and Louis.

Broder attended the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. He is an Atlantic Fellow at the Global BRN Health Institute, (at UCSF and Trinity College, Dublin) who commissioned his play UnRavelled www.unravelled play.com.

His play “Our American Hamlet” premiered at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and nominated for best new play, IRNE (Boston). Broder holds additional credits too numerous to list.


“We all live in a totalitarian zoo,

Whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Jew,

As corrupt leaders conspire to deceive,

Humanity suffers from power, hatred and greed,

Should our souls ever hope to survive,

“Never Again!” will keep us alive.


Scripps Ranch Theatre and Common Ground Theatre Present “STEW” by Zora Howard

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