Absurdist playwright Will Eno has been compared to Samuel Beckett. The comparison is apt as his “Tragedy: A Tragedy”, produced by Red Tape, is a highly verbal, challenging work in which theme takes up all the space where plot would normally be.
Some form of eternal night has descended on the world. The sun has not been seen for some time. A team of TV journalists tries to make sense of what’s happened.
Frank, (Lawrence Garner) a classic anchor of the old Cronkite school, is literally elevated above the proceedings, looking down on three roving correspondents. John (Steve O’Connell) attempts to interview a man on the street witness (Paul G. Miller) who is initially reluctant to say much of anything. Constance (Paige Sawin) stands in front of an abandoned house and speculates on the people who might have lived there. Michael (Mike Tepeli) stands outside the governor’s mansion, dutifully relaying official statements.
In true Beckettian fashion, the characters find that language is insufficient to convey the enormity of the events and each character begins to psychologically and emotionally unravel.
Television journalists are very rarely treated sympathetically in fiction. They are most typically mocked for their superficialities and their clearly manufactured personae. Director Jeremy Wechsler’s portrayal here, however, is very sympathetic, indeed, deeply compassionate. These characters do not stand at a distance from us, they are us. We realize that no one’s persona is any less manufactured than theirs and it’s wrenching to watch theirs being stripped away. As the characters’ confidence is eroded, they retreat to elemental, childlike states, all revealing unfulfilled needs for companionship, solace and meaning. All the actors give lovely performances.
This is not a particularly entertaining show, in a conventional sense, but it does offer moments of fun, and moments of beauty, and the subtle suggestion that that is all we have.