nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
April 18, 2013
A scene from Stand-Up Tragedy | Carly Sioux
Stand-Up Tragedy is a play by Bill Cain being put up at The Nativity/St Teresa’s Parish, which apparently is also the setting for the real events that inspired this play. Structured like a classic Greek tragedy, with actors taking on very specific performances to portray multiple roles and a chorus narrating the work, the show follows a new teacher at a Catholic School and how he reaches out to his more disenfranchised students. While not strictly speaking a novel show, I found myself really enjoying the overall piece. The show is stylish and fun where it needs to be and certainly well produced. Performances were strong and the script had some really stellar moments. The more stylized components where the chorus of dancers and singers invoke representations of aspects of the student’s lives were really dynamic and engaging. Tom Littman as Griffin was a particular standout and played off really well with Carlos Ibarra’s Lee.
There are complaints, of course. Most are nitpicky. They throw out the term “JUG” several times but never once provide any context. Only my fourteen years of Catholic Schooling informed me that they were talking about “Justice Under God”, the equivalent of detention. Also, being a show on the longer side (over two and a half hours) staged at a church meant that the wooden pews began to feel very uncomfortable before the intermission was remotely in sight. The hip-hop elements worked pretty well, but the moments where the teachers rapped were a bit of unintentional comedy that took me out of several scenes.
I think my only real issue is that the show is constrained out of respect for reality. Since the darker events of the show are portrayed as based on real history, it comes off that there is a reluctance to crop out some of the more cluttered or longwinded elements of the show in favor of a tighter pace. As it stands, the inevitable conclusion comes at a ponderously slow rate.
Stand Up Tragedy is a good show, but some minor problems prevent it from being a great show, however the staging is interesting and the piece as a whole still quite engaging.