One feels intense sympathy for the workers who died gruesome deaths in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory inferno of 1911—likewise those involved in the Great American Play Series’ production of Triangle (at 59E59 Theaters). Fortunately, the latter proves a smaller-scale disaster, leaving no actual charred corpses.
The play uses the bigger disaster as an occasion to detail the late career of “Big Tim” Sullivan (Joe Gately), the well-intentioned yet corrupt Tammany Hall boss under whose jurisdiction the tragedy occurred. Playwrights Jack Gilhooley and Daniel Czitrom toy around with his biography, blaming the aftermath of the fire for Sullivan’s fatal depression, instead of the murder of his protégé, hapless gambler Herman Rosenthal (who doesn’t appear), or Sullivan’s untreated syphilis. Little attention is paid to the reforms Sullivan instituted after the fire; much more to his adulterous affair with actress Margaret Holland (Ashley C. Williams) and her sour relationship with their sour daughter Mary Catherine (Michaela McPherson).
Despite some corniness, the script has a sarcastic fizz that might be intermittently charming if director Stephan Morrow had coaxed a single moment of comic timing or commitment from the boilerplate cast. Instead we’re trapped and suffocated.