RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS at Players Club of Swarthmore’s Second Stage

by Lisa Panzer

Is this another 9/11 play? Yes, but no. Craig Wright’s (Six Feet Under, Brother and Sisters, Lost) RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS, as directed by Noah Herman, manages to intersperse humor into a very sad and deadly serious situation. The outward plot starts out mundane enough; Waverly (Siobhan Groves), who works in a advertising office, is waiting to meet a blind date, Andrew (Craig Copas), an airport bookstore manager, set up by a mutual friend, who it turns out neither person cares for much. The date arrives with a non-descript bottle of wine, and much awkwardness ensues. Add Ron (James Lepone), the hip intrusive air guitar playing neighbor, and his lady friend Nancy (Julie J. Grega) in the second act, mix with quantities of beer, tequila and throw in a card game of chance. Next, to this sit-com like set-up, insert Waverly’s aunt, the prolific author Joyce Carol Oates, represented by a beer swilling sock puppet (also portrayed by Julie J. Grega), then combine with one sleight of hand Stage Manager (Amy Harting). Only, it’s September 12th, 2001; the day after, and Waverly is desparately waiting to hear of or from her sister, who is living in NYC. Even admidst the absurdity mentioned above, her anxiety is a palpable presense throughout the show.

Ron (Jimmy Lepone of Philadelphia) and Nancy (Julie Grega of Mt. Airy) crash their neighbor's blind date, in RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS on The Players Club of Swarthmore Theater's Second Stage.

Wright packs this play full of duality, devices and discussion. There is Waverly’s twin sister Wendy, the double date with the neighbor and his lady friend, Andrew who has actually met Wendy and who coincidentally owns the same books as Waverly, and of course the Twin Towers and others. There are tones in the first act that foretell changes in the script which turn out to signify nothing at all. Auntie Oates (well executed by Julie J. Grega), the sock puppet, accuses Ron of being a puppet. Dialogue brings up questions such as “Is there such a thing as chance, synchronicity, or free will?” “Were does chance end and destiny begin? Were these events destined to happen?” Ron, comments that “It’s like it’s always happening” as the ever present television issues light, news and interviews about “The Thing”.

The cast and crew handle the material quite well. The actors give voice to the author’s interesting juxtaposition of farce and fear, but also lend a depth of human flaw and feeling. James Lepone’s hilarious facial expressions and excellent physicality as Ron are in definitely in synchronicity with his character’s free flowing “like whatever” attitude. Siobhan Groves keeps Waverly’s anxious energy up, which plays well against the good work Craig Copas does as the retiring, “wishy washy”, but cute, blind date who decides to stay with Waverly to try to help. Julie J. Grega gives a lovely voice to the sock puppet Joyce Carol Oates. Stage Manager, Amy Harting adds humor to the play when she sheepishly admits to the us that she has to fib because “It’s in the script” (we forgive you Amy). Sound and lights and story were well orchestrated (Karen Cook, George Mulford, Liam Daley), while the set and scene design (Sandy Goldsborough) made excellent use of stage space. And, oh yes, it’s warm at the theater! There is definitely much to experience in this particular piece as directed by Noah Herman.

By Craig Wright
Directed by Noah Herman
January 28 – February 12, 2011
Players Club of Swarthmore’s Second Stage
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

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