Small Tragedy
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by David Allen

“What would it take for your story to be considered tragic?” one of the characters asks in Aurora Theatre’s west coast premiere of Craig Lucas’ Small Tragedy. The answer given is: “Self knowledge.” With these words we begin to peel the many layers of depth folded around the core of this drama.

On the surface it appears to be a comedy about a bunch of actors in Boston trying to put on a community theatre production of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. Indeed, the play opens with some hilarious auditions. Lucas, an actor and director as well as playwright, is not afraid to make fun of his profession. But it’s not malicious fun, merely playful portraits of characters that become more and more real as the story unfolds.

Their modern day life patterns, in subtle ways, the Greek characters they are portraying in Sophocles’ play. But the one to watch most closely is Hakija (Matteo Troncone) who plays Oedipus. From Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country torn by war and ethnic cleansing, there are many war related traumas deep within Hakija that he draws on in order to powerfully portray Oedipus. Just what those traumas are is left up to the audience to figure out from a series of very dramatic clues subtle enough to keep you guessing until near the end. Then the suspense shifts to his wife Jen (Carrie Paff) and what she will do with the information revealed about her husband.

In addition to a well-written drama, the caliber of the acting talent in this production keeps you riveted to this story as it explores the trauma of war and how people prefer to stay happy and reduce such trauma to a small tragedy.

For tickets or more information call (510) 843-4822 or visit

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