‘Tragedy’ strikes news cast at apocalyptic fall of night

The past couple of months have been rehearsal months for Cap and Bells, so when Tragedy: A Tragedy finally took the stage, it played for three nights in the CenterStage theatre and packed it beyond its capacity two nights in a row. The play is a one-act written by Will Eno, a playwright who the New York Times has called the “Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” With shows like the Colbert Report becoming more and more successful every year, it is not surprising that a play about a newscast turns out to be both “satiric and sincere,” in the words of director Noah Schechter ’12. While the irony of the plot is that there is no action, Eno’s quick and ironic script combined with the creative choices of the director and the honest portrayal of four characters coming undone made for a very entertaining 75 minutes.
The basic story follows a slightly disoriented news team as they cover the fact that “night fell at nightfall.” This seemingly mundane and average change in daylight becomes an increasing source of anxiety for the news team as they question whether or not it is the end of the world. Chris Gay ’13 played Frank, the in-office news anchor who, despite all of the troubles he encounters, remains the most stable of the group. In the field, John, played by Chris Fox ’11, is the overeager, always-excited reporter on a street corner. Becca Fallon ’14 portrayed Constance, who also reports from the field, or I should say from the yard. Last but certainly not least on the team is Michael, played by Emma Rickles ’14. Michael is the resident lawyer who always reports from “on the steps of somewhere,” whether it is from the governor’s office or in front of the capital building.
By choices of the director and the nature of the script, all four characters had their own sets on the stage: a news desk, a front yard, a street corner and … everywhere else. While the others each remained on their own turfs, Rickles moved from place to place within the auditorium ranging from on the balconies, in the audience and even in the ceiling.
With so much happening at once, the first key feature of this play that I noticed was the lighting. Because the plot is centered on darkness, lighting was used in both a thematic and technical way. By showing us who was talking, the spot lights helped to keep the overlapping dialogue straight, but the lights were also used in a humorous way, reminding us that we are watching a “newscast” where the reporters switch camera angles without missing a beat and forget that they are live.
With none of the reporters being “struck by anything striking,” the nameless experience of night is slowly transformed into the fearful experience of what could be the looming apocalypse. While the arc of the plot was somewhat lacking, the acting from each of the cast members was extremely funny and also serious, a paradox that even the title of the play implies. While Eno’s literary punning gave all of the characters witty one-liners, I was really impressed with each actor’s ability to convey the sarcasm of the scenes he or she was participating in. Fox was able to both become the overenthusiastic reporter who smiles about even his own impending doom and also mock this character for his ridiculousness. His fall into a type of insanity was comical at parts, but also very personal and sad. Similarly, Gay was able to embody the role of the last man standing while simultaneously revealing to us the inner stresses and fractures of this person. Gay played a perfect father-like figure, keeping the rest of his crew in control until he broke down at last and we could see the real Frank … and probably more than we expected to.
Fallon’s character Constance begins as the beautiful, slightly ditzy female reporter that has become an archetype in recent television shows and movies. As the plot progresses Constance gains more and more depth as Fallon’s facial expressions of hope and human concern make us take her character more seriously.
It was Rickles, however, that stole the show. I attribute some of my favor towards the character of Michael as a result of Schechter’s decisions to keep Rickles moving about the auditorium, but I believe that most of it comes from her ability to personify the no-nonsense, all-business attitude of a law man, while also letting us see what happens when a law man has no laws to follow or report on.
Jonathan Foster ’11 also performed as a witness on John’s scene. A small character at first, Foster eventually becomes the only person who doesn’t give up hope, the only one who still believes in those who have abandoned their cause. While the storyline was somewhat confusing at times, the personalization of these characters makes the audience realize that they are just looking for some meaning in a world where there might not be much. All we can do is hope the daylight will return.

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