A Roaring Tragedy, TinFish Theatre. The play’s premise sounds like a joke–“There’s this dysfunctional Yugoslavian family, see?” And its characters are a textbook sitcom clan, complete with a harried housewife who burns the dinner, a trigger-happy brother who drinks too much, and a lazy Elvis-obsessed teenage son. The plot revolves around the release of senile Gramps, a former government official, from the lunatic asylum–oops, hospital–for the weekend, a holiday he initiates by marrying a fellow inmate. But as the farcical complications escalate, we begin to suspect that more than simple domestic problems are involved.

Some of Dusan Kovacevic’s satire is universal–a bookseller’s lament that sales were better when more authors were banned, for example. But many of the playwright’s observations may elude American audiences lacking intimate knowledge of social conditions in postcommunist Belgrade. What does it mean that, even though the grandfather’s power is diminished, he manages to stir up so much trouble? Why does his grandson fall prey to subversive suggestions so quickly? Are the play’s filial tensions based in genuine political upheaval, or are long-standing problems merely amplified by the Soviet withdrawal?

A few players in this TinFish production–notably Keith Beck and Radica Radovic–attempt to forge personalities from a script consisting chiefly of people shouting at one another. But without the necessary context, we’re left with only the tired sterotypes of sitcom.

–Mary Shen Barnidge