Saturday, July 29, 2017

Pity in History

It is telling that the line from which this play's title comes is "No pity in history." It's the 17th Century, during a civil war in Britain, and of course the war is not remotely civil. A cook has been shot--possibly by "friendly fire"--and is dying noisily, full of kvetching and insight. A mason tries to stay outside the fray, working on tombs in a church, but the fray finds him. The army believes that they are the strongest and will win because God is on their side. The opposing army would describe itself in much the same way.

Jonathan Tindle, Christopher Marshall
Photo: Stan Barough
Pity in History runs a packed 65 minutes, and its depth and breadth are remarkable. It has much to say about war, religion, human nature, and art, and it is wise and frequently funny. The production at PTP/NYC, running through August 5, unfortunately does not do it justice. While there is some excellent acting (in particular, Steven Dykes as the mason and Jonathan Tindle as the cook), and some of the direction (Richard Romagnoli) and design is effective, the dialogue is too frequently unintelligible, particularly when the soldiers speak in unison. Pity in History was initially a radio play, with impressively economical writing, and every word counts. Or would count if we could hear them. I read the script this morning and would say that the PTP/NYC production loses at least 20% of the plot, meaning, and wit. (A friend said that, because there was so much she could not understand, she ended up checking out and barely watching the show.)

Steven Dykes, Matt Ball
Photo: Stan Barouh
I regret that this review is ending up to be so harsh, because the play is truly impressive and parts of the production are excellent, but unintelligibility is the fault that can perhaps most completely derail a play.

Wendy Caster
(4th row, press ticket)

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