An early darkhorse contender for an Obie in 2004-05
"The Triangle Factory Fire Project" by Christopher Piehler
Clurman Theatre, 420 W. 42nd St.
Presented by The Actors Theatre Company (TACT)
May 14-29 Limited run of 16 performances. Opening night was May 19, 2004.
Reviewed by Robert Hicks on May 28, 2004
Closed May 29, 2004
Playwright Christopher Piehler used personal witness accounts to give firsthand authenticity and heartfelt immediacy to the myriad tragedies in act one of his new dramatization of the 1911 fire that killed 146 factory workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City.
Director Scott Alan Evans energized the whole company as various characters gave period details through dynamic news flashes, recounting labor issues and factory conditions of the times.
The Actors Company Theatre's nine-member cast each played multiple roles in brilliant fashion. Prominent figures of the day such as Governor Dix, Commissioner Williams, Chief Edward Crocker and Buildings Department Superintendent Miller populated the drama, but the factory workers, especially lace cutter Kate Alterman (Nora Chester) and machine operator Margaret Schwartz (Rachel Fowler) as survivor and victim, respectively, took center stage in this moving drama.
Witness accounts drove home the harsh, gruesome details of the immigrant women's lost lives and the greedy owners' insensitive, cowardly disregard for life.
Act two chronicled the courtroom trial of the factory owners on grounds of criminal negligence. It was equally engaging for different reasons. Cross examination of witnesses by the owners' defense lawyer and by the New York D.A. revealed inconsistencies in testimony, witness tampering and bribery, yet the jury still ruled in favor of factory owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris who profited greatly from their business and from the tragedy. People filled the streets in response to the verdict, crying for justice, eventually bringing about reform of the outmoded labor laws in 1911 New York City. [Hicks]