BWW Review: THE EVENTS at Theater Alliance is Poignant but Imperfect
Writing about gun violence is difficult. There's no "how-to" guide when it comes to preventing these attacks which have become more and more commonplace. The more we try to understand the inner machinations of the monsters who carry out such senseless assaults, the more we begin to spiral into someone we hardly recognize. Such is the thesis of David Greig's The Events, which opened last week at Theater Alliance at the Anacostia Playhouse. While the work is incredibly poignant, some artistic decisions muddle the plot and make the 80-minute performance drag during the middle of the production.
In the wake of a mass shooting at her community center, Claire (Regina Aquino), becomes obsessed with The Boy (Josh Adams) who perpetrated the act. Claire is one of only a handful of survivors and is struggling to process the aftermath of this tragedy. What drove The Boy to commit such a heinous crime and does he feel any guilt for his actions? Is he crazy or not? Because if he is crazy she can just write him off but if he isn't then there are underlying motives that Claire must understand. While Claire continues to resume her life, she returns to the events more and more while her obsession with The Boy begins to overtake her entirely.
Ms. Aquino and Mr. Adams carry the brunt of the performance upon their shoulders.
Ms. Aquino fluctuates easily between rationality and obsession which helps to call Claire's own sanity into question. Despite her insistences that she is re-acclimating as best she can, Ms. Aquino reveals additional layers to Claire that peel away at her "everything's okay" facade. Mr. Adams serves as an adequate sparring partner during the evening. This is good considering the majority of the scenes are two-handers between these actors (even though there is a delightfully skilled chorus of actors onstage with them).
Though Mr. Adams delivers a serviceable performance, he plays too many characters: The Boy, his friend, his family, a politician, and Claire's female lover to name a few. This decision feels odd, because it prevents Claire from developing any connection to the characters she is playing off of. Additionally, the character shifts are so frequent, speedy (often indicated by a quick line) and lacking in any physical representation of a shift (Mr. Adams keeps his same hoodie on for the play's duration) that it is easy to lose track of with whom Claire is speaking. It is unclear if such a decision is called for in the script or was a decision by director Colin Hovde. Either way, the execution makes the scene transitions clunky and underutilizes the show's chorus.
While the performative execution fumbles at times, the technical direction for The Events is nearly flawless throughout. William K. D'Eugenio, in particular does some excellent work with lighting. There is a moment in the evening where the lights are turned out and the audience is shrouded in complete darkness (a moment which I personally didn't enjoy but which created a dramatic intensity) that happens so fluidly that I couldn't help but appreciate the design. Additionally, during one of the evening's more artistic moments, Mr. Adams creates shadow puppets upon one of the large walls of the Anacostia Playhouse. Such a move can easily turn gimmick-y or be poorly executed. Thanks to Mr. D'Eugenio, however, the moment is executed brilliantly.
Heather Lockard doesn't have much to work with for costume design (it is all contemporary fashion with nothing of particular note) but each choice gives the players their own personality which is hard to do with a chorus that primarily sings hymns and pop songs. Giorgos Tsappas provides a beautiful, expansive, and open playing space with minimalist scenic design. It is strange that the moments before the play started, where the set's cool blue tones are softly lit and the sound of waves plays in the background, seem out of place with the rest of the performance. Such a pre-show effect feels much more in line with Theater Alliance's past production of Flood City than with The Events.
The full ensemble is a delight to listen to. Marty Austin Lamar has done some nice work with the chorus who blend well together and deliver some great covers during the show ("Crazy" is a particular high-point musically). It's a shame the chorus doesn't have more to do. Claire and The Boy occupy most of the show fairly independently, meaning nine very capable actors are relegated to the role of onlookers more than they probably should.
Claire's obsession with understanding The Boy should feel familiar to most audience members. As a nation, we have a morbid fascination with mass shootings. We review the events and dissect the moments that led up to each outburst either until we are satisfied with out conclusion or another tragedy strikes and pulls our attention away. At the end of the day, however, we are just like Claire: the more that we search for an answer the more we lose ourselves along the way. Some things are just not able to be understood or justified.
Theater Alliance's The Events runs approximately 80 minutes with no intermission and is playing through October 7 at the Anacostia Playhouse. For tickets and information, click here.
Sam Abney is a Washington, D.C. based arts professional. A native of Arizona, he has happily made D.C. his new home. Sam is a graduate from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and currently works for Arena Stage as a member of their Development team. He is a life-long lover of theater and is excited about sharing his passion with as many people as possible.
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