BWW Review: Intiman's THE EVENTS - A Powerful Piece, Interrupted
Whenever I see a play, Dear Readers, I want that play to just tell me a story. I want it to flow nicely, build at a steady pace, and have a good payoff. I don't necessarily need the trappings of superfluous gimmickry. If the added bits lend themselves to the piece or the story, that's great, but when they interrupt the flow of the show, that's when I have issue. The current piece from Intiman Theatre, "The Events", certainly has a powerful message and is performed by two very gifted actors, but the "gimmicks" only allowed for the show to feel disjointed and the sustained tension to be lost.
In David Greig's play, we meet Claire (Sarah Harlett), a choir leader whose faith has been shaken due to the horrifying mass shooting that left her choir decimated. But while she remains physically unscathed from the events, she can't come to terms with the "why" of the events that led a young boy (Conner Neddersen) to perpetrate this heinous act. So, she embarks on an odyssey to find answers by speaking with others such as a fellow priest, a journalist, the father of the boy, and the boy himself (all played by Neddersen).
The play darts back and forth in time which can be a bit jarring but is ably handled by the cast as well as director Paul Budraitis. The information presented may not be linear, but it does come together. What doesn't aid in the story is the fact that each performance enlists a different community choir to represent the choir in the piece and the show is repeatedly interrupted by choral pieces, some of which are connected to the story but many of which feel gratuitous. Now, I don't know if they picked the pieces or how many would be included but I do know the convention of the choir being there is not new to this production, but part of the play itself. So, most of the blame rests with Greig who constantly breaks his own narrative by introducing superfluousness. We just build up steam in the story and then the choir stood, and all the accumulated steam would be lost. It also didn't help that this choir, the night I saw it, wasn't very together and looked as if they weren't sure what they needed to do.
And speaking of superfluousness, if the constant breaks from the choir weren't enough, at one point they wheeled in a monitor and we watched a nature documentary on the hunting habits of an arctic fox. Why it was there, whose idea it was, or why they felt it needed to go on so long is a complete mystery to me.
Uneven choirs and "Planet Earth" specials aside, the cast is quite dynamic and gripping. Harlett creates a wonderful arc for Claire, allowing us to see and feel how her psyche is dealing with the situation and as the narrator of the piece, she carries the show beautifully. And Neddersen manages his multiple characters with seeming ease and his ultimate portrayal of the broken boy who committed the crime is both harrowing and tragic.
I only wish the company, as well as the author, could have trusted their story enough to simply tell it without the choir, the video, and the need to reconfigure the theater which made it necessary for the audience to go on a journey through the underbelly of the theater to get to our seats. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Intiman Theatre's production of "The Events" a diluted YAY-. I understand the need for shows to feel different from the rest of the pack, but sometimes simple is better.