By Max Radwin, For the Daily
Published October 31, 2012
This election cycle, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” has pulled better ratings from young audiences than any major cable news network. It’s no surprise considering the frenzy of election coverage coming from 24/7 media outlets. And with the overflow of information, political satire may feel like a necessity.
Tragedy: A Tragedy
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Walgreen Drama Center
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Perhaps because of these sentiments, Basement Arts director Avery DiUbaldo chose to put on “Tragedy: A Tragedy” by Pulitzer prize-nominated playwright Will Eno.
“(The play) is partially a satire on the news media, but it is also sort of a more probing question into what gives a person’s life meaning ... ” DiUbaldo explained.
The 50-minute play’s humor has been compared to that of “The Daily Show,” and explores the absurdity of news media and its tendency to create stories rather than follow them.
“Tragedy” focuses on one central crisis: It’s nighttime, the sun has set and no one knows if it is ever going to rise again. Nothing has happened to suggest that it won’t; nevertheless, reporters are there on the scene to capture the action and cover the story as if it were really the end of the world.
Each member of the news team seems to embody a different archetype of the media. Their names alone are a satirical commentary on the industry: Michael the Legal Advisor is a know-it-all who knows nothing, Frank in the Studio might remind older audience members of an aged Walter Cronkite and Constance at the Home serves as the token female on staff in charge of special interest stories.
The show explores “how language doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a pile of words that ends up sinking down on itself,” said DiUbaldo.
According to DiUbaldo, the source of the play’s humor lies in the struggle to extract important information from a situation that is obviously devoid of it.
Except for a desk and a few other props, DiUbaldo has chosen to observe Eno’s written directions of keeping a bare stage.
“(It) lets the actors and the audience focus on the characters, and their relationships, and their words,” he said. “Which I think is really important.”
For anyone unfamiliar with Eno’s work, this performance can serve as an opportunity to experience a comedy by one of America’s rising playwrights. Among other achievements, Eno’s 2005 play “Thom Pain (based on nothing)” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
“He really does have his own genre of theater I think that he’s starting to develop,” he said.
The chance to direct one of Eno’s shows isn’t an opportunity DiUbaldo is taking for granted — he’s relishing the experience.
Just like “The Daily Show,” Eno’s “Tragedy: A Tragedy” can provide an intellectual and cultural experience for those in search of one. But it can also provide the kind of lighthearted satire Stewart has so popularized as well.
“It’s a really funny show,” DiUbaldo said. “People can get turned off by all that high-minded talk and the meaninglessness of one’s life and existential wordplay, but (in) the very core it’s a really funny show.”