Laughtracks censor smart PC play

We’ve all stopped ourselves at one time or another to wonder what was the right thing to say next. What word should we use to describe a minority group? How can this be phrased to include everyone?

Then we find ourselves saying, "No offence, but…"

Student playwright Ethan Cole is acutely aware of the limiting world of political correctness in his new Nickel and Dime play, Situation Tragedy.

"People are ultra-sensitive," Cole says as he explains the play’s theme. "Who really means what they say?"

Situation Tragedy is anchored around the taping of a television sitcom gone horribly wrong. Issues of political correctness and (self) censorship plague the filming of the doomed show–hence, the title of the play. But don’t come to the Reeve Theatre April 2-5 expecting a mushy, pathos-filled, fatal-flaw driven, Greek-style tragedy. Despite its name, the play is a comedy through and through.

"It’s condemning political correctness… in a somewhat risqué way," says Cole, with a grin. "Risqué" is dark and often offensive humour designed to carry the potentially heavy theme of Tragedy. But the writer has no reservations about his version of funny.

"If you can’t laugh at sensitive issues, then what are you going to laugh at?" says Cole.

Situation Tragedy was conceived four years ago by Cole and a couple of his buddies as a simple skit. Over time, the concept grew, eventually evolving into what is on stage today. Cole describes it as a complex 40- minute play.

It is an intricate weave of dynamic characters hiding behind masks of PC-ness. They are characters that are truly offensive, with many shortcomings, but, as Cole adds, they also create a charming quality about the production. Under the direction of Jeff Woods, the cast of Tragedy has a warmth that drives the off-the-wall comedy.

Worried people may construe the over-the-top representation of hypocrisy and lies as how he sees the truth, Cole warns that the audience has to take the surface content of Situation Tragedy "with a pinch of salt, and realize people aren’t really as stupid as we’re portraying them."

With Situation Tragedy, Cole endeavoured to create something different, daring and thought-provoking.

"Hopefully you’ll laugh and not want to kill the writer."

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