“Too soon.” “Tragedy plus time.” Performers are always looking for the magic mathematical equation that will tell them when it’s O.K. to comment on real-life calamity. The answer is both simple and seemingly unfair: For great performers, almost any time is a good time; for bad performers, “never” is more like it.
Jason Nettle isn’t a great performer, but he is a good one, which is what gives his 9/11 -- We Will Never Forget its flashes of dark insight and rescues it from the unspeakably trite. Via a series of character monologues, Nettle relives that fateful day, viewing its events through the eyes of New Yorkers of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and philosophical bents. At their best, the vignettes manage the serious feat of making you reexamine your idea of what it meant to be an American at the dawn of the Age of Terror -- or at least revisit reactions you had long ago stuffed down and out of sight. In one effective bit, a self-absorbed actor applies the skills he’s learned from Uta Hagen to manage (read: exploit) the real-life horror unfolding around him. It takes some brass balls to hold up that kind of a mirror at a festival where actors make up a good chunk of any given house.
Nettle delivers all of the material with force and commitment, although he needs to do a better job of differentiating between the characters and fixing their words in time. (Some scenes take place on the morning of Sept. 11, others much later.) Probably his biggest mistake is to end the show with an essay he wrote eight days after the attacks -- a musing that’s pretty much as naive and homiletic as anything any of us was thinking or saying at the time. He would have been wiser to go out on a damning sermon he’s relegated to mid-show, in which an unidentified speaker turns our notion of American pluck on its head by applying it to the hijackers. Al Qaeda, he reasons, succeeded on that day because they did something we’re always prodding ourselves to do: they worked together. They knew that remaking the world in their image couldn’t be a one-man show.
Friday 18 May; at 10:00pm in the Brown
Saturday 19 May; at 12:30pm in the Brown
Sunday 20 May; at 8:00pm in the Brown
Monday 21 May; at 11:30pm in the Brown
Tuesday 22 May; at 9:00pm in the Brown
Friday 25 May; at 6:00pm in the Brown
Saturday 26 May; at 2:30pm in the Brown
Price: $11 + Fringe Button (good for entire Fringe)