Culture for W: A Theater Review

Last weekend I made a trip to TPAC to see the Rep Theater’s latest, Recent Tragic Events. They bill it as A comedy about chance, coincidence, fate, free will and a sock puppet! It takes place on September 12, 2001. A man is picking up his blind date, but things turn complicated. Some of you Imaginary Readers who watch TV might recognize playwright Craig Wright from the credits of Six Feet Under, and Lost.

It really is a comedic performance, which is pretty amazing considering they have the constant news coverage of the World Trade Center disaster going on in the background. Through the course of the first act we find out that the lead actress had a sister who may have been at ground zero. So essentially the story is about 5 characters sitting around drinking while they wait for the phone to ring.

The prevalent theme seemed to be about the absence or presence of free will. The playwright incorporated a couple of obvious gimmicks in order to get laughs in the process. No doubt about it, they're gimmicks, but they're gimmicks with a purpose. The ‘stage manager’ comes out at the beginning of the show to tell the audience we get to play a part in what will happen on stage. This gimmick is played for laughs at crucial points in the first act, but it’s abandoned at the beginning of the second act. And in the process, it really starts to bring home the point about control. That’s really the best impression I can give you without spoiling some of the plot.

In the second a philosophical discussion breaks out in the midst of a drinking game. It centers around whether humans really have free will when we’re all subject to the whims of chance. The ongoing background news coverage from ground zero is used to really make the argument. This is where the other gimmick comes in. The fifth character enters the picture, and is a sock puppet. In a cruel twist of fate the sock puppet is the one that argues for free will.

I have to say I agree with the argumentative footwear on this one. Certainly we’re all subject to chance, but we exhibit free will in how we deal with what luck and chance give us. No one forces you to quit. A person can shape chance just as much as chance shapes them. My thoughts on it are summed up by a quote from Louis Pasteur. ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ Chance, or luck, tends to give you as many opportunities as it takes away so you have to be prepared when it does.

In the last minutes of the show, I did begin to see some of the playwright’s point about people being puppets. The lead actor did something he obviously didn’t want to do, but it was because of emotions and internal conflicts, not external forces. So I thought of it more as how we are shaped by our childhood.

I do have to give a lot of credit Anitra Brumagen, who plays Nancy. She has only one line of her own, but as far as comedy goes, she stole the show. It was a great demonstration of what a good physical comic can do. She kept things lively just by her facial expressions, and activities in the background while everyone else was waxing philosophical.

In the end, I think the writer was a little to gimmicky and clever for his own good, but it’s still entertaining food for thought with great acting. It’s showing through February 18. Go see it.


Blogger Plimco said...

Wait wait wait. This show is at Tennessee Rep? TENNESSEE?! Are you kidding me? I just...I'm stunned. I can't believe they are doing theatre like this. When I lived in TN it was all, Sleeping Beauty this and A Christmas Carol that and oh, let's bring Phantom to town... Wow. Color me impressed. You actually saw decent theatre that made you think about something in Nashville. Will wonders never cease?

9:42 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger W said...

Amazing ain't it? They're doing another one that looks interesting next. Oleanna by David Marmet.

From what I've read, it's about sexual harassment and how one person can think she's been harassed and the other think he didn't harass her. And both of them be right.

11:03 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Plimco said...

Yeah. I can see Oleanna. It's sort of a classic at this point, but sock puppets?! Wacky for ol Nash Vegas...

12:02 PM, February 09, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home