Edited by Natasha Dawsen
Set the night after September 11, 2001, Recent Tragic Events follows a blind date happening in the shadow of a tragedy.
Written by Craig Wright, and directed by Jake Lipman, this fateful date has been arranged between an attractive advertising exec, Waverly (played with intellectual intensity by Jaya Tripathi) and a tentative and bookish bookstore manager, Andrew (the excellent Matt Gibson).
But this is not just an ordinary blind date, filled with awkward pauses and sizing up of appearances. Each of the blind daters seem inextricably stuck together in this moment in time: Waverly is tethered to her phone, waiting for an important call while trying to flirt with Andrew, while Andrew ricochets from chair to perusing her books to staring deep into her eyes, all the while making multiple unsuccessful attempts to leave the confines of her apartment.
As the company’s stage manager (Loralee Tyson) informs the audience at the top of the show, the events of the piece could go in two possible directions; she invites an audience member to flip a coin, and from there, a tone is sounded for the moments where the action could go one way or another. This conceit was slightly distracting for me in the beginning, but it should be noted that the playwright is known for twisty television writing for shows like “Lost,” and it does eventually play out in the second act.
From this tense beginning, the play makes a left turn into an almost sitcom-like territory, complete with a group of quirky friends and neighbors. Next door neighbor and musician Ron stops by, (the hammy yet likable William Douglas Turner) and invites himself in, along with his depressive girlfriend (Jake Lipman, a lot of fun to watch), making for the weirdest of double-dates and much of the play’s sillier moments.
While Recent Tragic Events vacillates between dramatic and comedic moments, it poses philosophical questions about the role of fate versus free will in the course of our lives—which the play never fully answers. But maybe that’s the point—seeing this play nearly two decades after 9/11, I was struck by how little we know today about the events and actions taken leading up to this national tragedy, and yet the not knowing does not change the fact it happened.
Thanks to this ensemble of gifted actors, Tongue in Cheek’s production of Recent Tragic Events is an effective one, filled with moments of real warmth, humor, and connection.
Recent Tragic Events is currently running May 8-18 at The Bridge Theatre, Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor. For tickets, go to http://www.tictheater.com