By Martin Casella; Based on the Novel by Jessica Francis Kane
Directed by Alan Muraoka
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.28.15
VENUE #13: Lynn Redgrave Theater @ Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street
by Michael Hartung on 8.25.15
The company of The Report. Photo by Lia Chang.
BOTTOM LINE: Well-crafted and skillfully performed, The Report tells a previously unknown tale from WWII Britain.
On March 3rd, 1943, 173 people died in the Bethnal Green Tube Station. This tragedy, the largest civilian loss in UK during all of World War II, wasn’t caused by a German bomb, but a mass panic and stampede as people tried to enter the shelter. The Report, a new play by Martin Casella, beautifully tells the story of this disaster and the British government’s subsequent cover-up.
This massive topic is made manageable by viewing it through the lens of documentarian Paul Barber (a dynamic Stuart Williams). The play begins in 1972 as Barber approaches Sir Laurence Dunne (Michael Countryman), the magistrate trusted with the official report of the incident. As Barber questions Dunne in hopes of creating a BBC documentary, we follow the memories of the magistrate as he interviews the survivors of the accident, looking for the answer this grieving community is desperately eager to find: who is to blame? Was the constable late to his post? Was the entrance light too bright? Were maintenance requests ignored? Was a Jew in the way? Was a mother anti-Semitic? Were boys playing innocently with a bottle rocket? As Dunne starts to pile up the evidence, one thing becomes clear: there is nothing clear about this case.
From the get-go, director Alan Muraoka, expertly differentiates flashbacks and present day scenes, which becomes the back and forth format of the show, with clear staging and choreographed transitions. The use of props, music (composed by Paul Rudolph), and movement (Darren Lee) are creatively combined to create an incredibly clear narrative as well as a visually captivating experience. This epic story is in the hands of a wonderfully skilled cast. Led by a commanding Michael Countryman and his impressive bio, the ensemble (almost without exception) works seamlessly together to create a whole community of characters. Sophie Sorensen particularly shines as she transforms into a handful of wonderfully specific women.
The Report thrillingly tackles the weighty relationship between the search for truth, the influence of power, and the power of guilt. Casella brilliantly juggles the intensity of this subject matter with quick dialogue that serves wit exactly when needed. An all around success, the production is the result of an inspiring collaboration between artists. Entertaining and thought-provoking, The Report has the rare theatrical power to linger in the mind long after the curtain closes.
(The Report plays at VENUE #13: Lynn Redgrave Theater @ Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street, through August 28, 2015. Performances are Sat 8/15 at 3:15; Tue 8/18 at 9:45; Mon 8/24 at 4:30; Thu 8/27 at 4:15; and Fri 8/28 at 9. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit thereporttheplay.com.)