Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thin Satire

Will Eno's Tragedy; tragedy is a compact satire on American television news. But even at seventy minutes in running length, the play becomes one weary joke.
The comedy's news team must wrestle with an astonishing piece of non-news: The sun has set and it is night. The avuncular anchorman (coolly played by Rich Espey) attempts to tease some news out of his clueless news team. Constance (Jessica Garrett in an offbeat performance) tries to drum up some local interest in reaction to the news, but there is little more to report than shifting fog and rain. In an edgier performance, the earnest John (Nathan Cooper) manages to snag a man-in-the-street (Michael Salconi) whose reactions amount to one-minute negatives. An increasingly deranged Michael (played with manic energy by Nathan Fulton) reports the political blather of the governor, unable to cope with the encircling gloom. As the non-news event progresses, the psychic nights of each baffled commentator emerge through the non-sequiter prose. Old resentments about distant parents and childhood names scratch the vacant journo-babble. But the existential huffing-puffing cannot redeem the one-note satire.
Under J. Buck Jabailly's capable direction, Eno's sketch is given a polished production. Set in a series of life-size boxes, the various news personalities suffer visual as well as psychological isolation as night (and the absurdist reactions to night) envelop them. Each character moves from fumbling, vacuous reportage to anxious self-disclosure and desperation. Even the box isolation begins to break down as Michael, the most unhinged of the commentators, walks right into the audience to deliver his valedictory on the mysterious governor. But despite the occasional fury and Beckett echoes, the play cannot overcome its SNL-sketch limits.

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