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100 Years Later - "Triangle"
Directed by Stephan Morrow
59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison
Opened April 14, 2011
Tues. thru Thurs. at 7:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. at 8:30 p.m. and Sun. at 3:30 p.m.
Closes May 1, 2011
Tickets: $18 (212) 279-4200
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 16, 2011
As a history buff with a special interest in the struggles of labor in the United States, "Triangle," Jack Gilhooley and Daniel Czitrom's play about the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911 held special interest for me.
The play is not so much about the fire as about Big Tim Sullivan (Joe Gately), the charming and corrupt Tammany Hall politician who turned crusader after the devastating fire that killed 146, mostly young Italian and Jewish girls of immigrant backgrounds.
"Triangle" portrays Big Tim as a man who has his fingers in many pies, including those theatrical. So when he meets the lovely Margaret Holland (Ashley C. Williams) he decides to make her into an actress and his mistress. The liaison produces one daughter, Mary Catherine (Michaela McPherson), but eventually dissolves when Big Tim tells Margaret they will have to live separately until he is cured of syphilis. He is never cured and the disease eventually kills him.
Ashely C. Williams and Donna Davis. Photo by Carol Rosegg. Joe Garlety and Dennis Wit. Photo by Carol Rosegg. Ashely C. Williams, Joe Garlety and Donna Davis. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The turning point in Big Tim's life comes with the fire. It is then that he realizes how his corrupt politics has allowed those conditions to exit in the sweatshop that led to the disaster - principally the locked doors that prevented the young girls from escaping.
Despite his declining health, Big Time makes speeches and tries to gather support for reform. HIs wife and child stand beside him. This may lead to spiritual redemption, but the man ends his days in an asylum after he loses his mind.
"Triangle" is directed by Stephan Morrow, a veteran of off off-Broadway, and cast with actors, who with the exception of Donna Davis, who plays Sullivan's assistant Cathleen Murphy, rarely rises above the level of talented amateur. Even the better actors are dreadfully under-rehearsed.
But despite the show's painful flaws, it does have a certain charm. It's clear that the authors are well-informed about the time period and powerfully engaged. Czitrom is professor of history at Mount Holyoke College and the author of several books. And Big Tim Productions is obviously earnest in its goal of creating theater rooted in American history.
At a time when labor is under attack on both the state and federal level, shows like "Triangle" are both welcome and necessary. Surely they could garner bigger audiences if they were better done.
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