True to form, Single Carrot Theatre wraps up its third season with another thought-provoking play. Will Eno's "Tragedy: A Tragedy" crams a lot of satire, irony and just plain oddity into 70 minutes, and this production serves up the volatile mixture in telling style.
Eno, who wrote "Tragedy" a few years ago, takes as his starting point a little touch of doomsday — the sun has apparently set for good — and focuses on a TV news station's attempt to deal with it all. If you've ever seen today's "news models" trying to vamp their way through a technical glitch or a lull in a breaking story, you know we'd be in for some pathetic, even hilarious stuff filling the airwaves in the event they ever had to cover something as big as the end of the world.
Sure enough, the initial scenes of the play are quite funny, with Frank sitting in the studio cutting back and forth between his intrepid reporters. There's John, literally out in a field, with precious little to describe; Constance, standing in front of an empty house that doesn't help advance the story too far; and Michael, who provides legal and political updates on the crisis. "Is the sense of tragedy palpable?" Frank asks at one point. "Yes, you can almost feel it," says John.
Gradually, the focus and tone shift. As they stare into the camera waiting for their cue, the looks on the reporters' faces go from dazed to crazed, while their conversation turns from superficial to confessional to confused.
In one sense, nothing really happens in "Tragedy," but something is definitely going on here, and the Single Carrot staging, deftly directed and designed by J. Buck Jabaily, gets to the heart of it. The well-matched cast embraces the clear and the absurd in the text with equal flair.
Rich Espey anchors the production as Frank, offering a smooth, earnest voice right out of TV-ville and conveying a touching vulnerability. As John, Nathan A. Cooper provides a potent dash of manic edginess. Jessica Garrett's Constance is an amusing mix of vanity and vapidity. Nathan Fulton does assured, colorful work as the increasingly unnerved Michael.
There's one more role in the play, simply identified as The Witness, portrayed with a disarming matter-of-factness by Michael Salconi. Fittingly, Eno gives this character what turns out to be the most important scene in "Tragedy," one that introduces the faintest, most welcome hint of light into the strangely enveloping dark.
"Tragedy: A Tragedy" runs through July 11 at Single Carrot Theatre, 120 W. North Ave. Call 443-844-9253 or go to singlecarrot.com.
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