In Tragedy: a Tragedy, playing as part of the SummerWorks Festival, a local news team is reporting on an unspecified but quiet apocalypse. At first it seems like it may just be some vague disaster, perhaps a train derailment devastating a small town. Soon it becomes clear that everyone is disappearing somehow, that night has fallen and the sun will never rise again, and that those left behind – namely, the reporters that we see onstage – will go slowly mad before everything is over and they too are gone.
For the first bit of the show the dialogue is very funny; the humour is mostly based on the character’s redundant, circular speech. They satirize those twenty-four hour news stations that try to pull every last drop of drama out of any situation they cover, saying the same things over and over again because they have nothing new to report but they still have to be on the air. And that setup remains throughout, though as the play moves on and melancholia sets in, they talk more to keep a connection with each other than to retain the attention of any audience. They all seem to become sure that there’s no audience watching them on TV screens, anyway.
The reporters include John In The Field (Benjamin Clost), an animal lover who manages to score testimony from the only actual witness anyone can find; Constance At Home (Miranda Edwards), camped out in front of an abandoned house ostensibly to do the “human interest” angle; Michael, Legal Advisor (Cyrus Lane), who receives communications from the governor’s office and, as his name suggests, gives a legal perspective; and Frank In The Studio, (Don Allison) the anchor who calls on each of them to report and tries to keep everything together. Rounding out the cast is The Witness, played by Christopher Stanton, who also designed a dreamy, eerie soundscape for the production.
The script is an absurdist meditation on the nature of “the news” in a world of nonstop media and on public identity vs private identity. I felt like it sagged a bit in the middle – when I say they “go slowly mad”, I do mean than it seemed to take quite a while from the first outbreak of inappropriate singing to the point where reality fully dropped away – but the performances where strong and I never lost interest in seeing how it would end. And for a play with very little stage action and that doesn’t give you any reason to think that things may change, that’s no small feat.
Tragedy: a Tragedy plays at Lower Ossington Theatre Mainspace (100 Ossington Ave)
Thursday August 7, 8:30pm
Friday August 8, 6:00pm
Saturday August 9, 10:00pm
Monday August 11, 4:30pm
Tuesday August 12, 7:00pm
Friday August 15, 7:00pm
Saturday August 16, 1:30pm
All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Photo by Julio Carvalho