Some very big ideas

Recent Tragic Events

Pizza, beer, tragedy, philosophy, Joyce Carol Oates and a sock puppet. It’s a comedy.

Pizza, beer, tragedy, philosophy, Joyce Carol Oates and a sock puppet. It’s a comedy.

Recent Tragic Events, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June 3; $10-$15. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through June 16.

Big Idea Theatre

1616 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(916) 390-9485

Rated 5.0

German cultural theorist Theodor Adorno famously wrote, “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Certainly, then, after 9/11, comedy is also barbaric. But as did Adorno, we are led by art and time to re-evaluate this assessment.

And that leads to amazement at Craig Wright’s play, Recent Tragic Events, which turns a traditionally comic set-up (blind date from hell) into a funny (in the most absurd way) and thought-provoking (in the most philosophical fashion) play about human relationships, literature, history, stage artifice and, ultimately, a discussion of determinism and free will, with which Martin Luther, Thomas Hobbes and Henri Poincaré, among others, would be quite comfortable. Oh, and there’s a hilarious rapid-fire series of one-line summaries of the oeuvre of our most prolific living novelist, Joyce Carol Oates, who is a character in the play—sort of.

In short, this is the sort of big-idea play that seems written precisely for Big Idea Theatre and, under of the direction of Gina Williams, they do it justice.

The frantic, emotional Waverly (Kassandra Douglas) and the equally emotional but far less decisive Andrew (David Blue Garrison) are having a blind date on September 12, 2001. It’s complicated by Waverly’s neighbor, Ron (Jes Gonzalez), a Tommy Chong-like philosopher-poet musician, and Ron’s visiting lady friend, the pantsless Nancy (Carrie Joyner, who also performs an outstanding second role).

But the stage manager, David (David Fox), introduces further complications: He breaks the fourth wall immediately, the first of several such intrusions that provide the perfect platform for both absurdist laughter and a serious intellectual discussion of the nature of possibility versus probability.

And did we mention that Waverly’s twin sister, a design student in New York City, hasn’t been heard from since before the attack?

With a detailed and realistic set design by Brian Harrower—so lovely you’ll want to hire him to redecorate your apartment—and outstanding sound design by Wade Lucas and Jouni Kirjola, the company at Big Idea has accomplished a huge feat: They make clear that Wright’s play is “about” 9/11 in the same way that Moby Dick is “about” a whale.