"Chance, choice, fate and free will" 

"Recent Tragic Events
HuddleBerg Productions
Directed by Dr. Tyler Smith
Old Centrum
Through July 20

After debuting in 2005 with Three Days of Rain, HuddleBerg Productions is back, this time with Recent Tragic Events, a show that takes a different perspective on the Sept. 11 story.

Set in an apartment in Minneapolis the day after the terrorist attacks, Andrew arrives at Waverly’s home to meet her for a blind date. But Waverly is freaking out because her twin sister, Wendy, lives in New York and hasn’t been heard from. While the wishy-washy Andrew gives serious consideration to leaving, other characters enter into the story: Ron, Waverly’s musician neighbor; his quiet and odd “guest” Nancy; and Waverly’s great aunt, the unequivocally fictional Joyce Carol Oates, who is portrayed by a sock puppet.

The play deals with chance, choice, fate and free will, even making the show itself a metaphor for these subjects. But you don’t feel like you are sitting in on Philosophy 101 because of the flippant dialogue and great acting. A standout performance by Eric Reiberg as Ron (the jazz musician who plays “all kinds” of music, just not classical, country, pop … the list goes on) keeps the atmosphere of the show decidedly light. His bizarre takes on everything from the inevitability of Sept. 11 (“I’m not surprised. You eat, you shit.”) to pizza toppings (“No one expects anchovies. That’s the beautiful thing.”) not only provide copious laughs, but also keep the momentum of the show going. And somehow he manages to be sweet as well, noting to Andrew that his pizza order was dependent on what Waverly wanted without overtly pushing her to make a decision, given her state of mind.

Kristen Cooler’s (Waverly) reactions to her missing sister are realistic, but she keeps her panic intact to remain a character instead of a caricature. She even manages to get in lines that are Ron-worthy (to Nancy: “I know we’re not really friends, but could you sit down and cover your vagina?”).

Gabriel Huddleston as Andrew is a kinda goofy 34-year-old manager of an airport bookstore. The only time passion rises to the forefront for him is when he discusses books. So the surprise visit by Joyce Carol Oates (represented by that sock puppet, performed by Carrie Reiberg, who is the otherwise silent character of Nancy), one of his favorite authors, becomes the catalyst for him to become more involved with the group.

Overall, this show is a lot of fun, even if the first half features a somewhat annoying concept that requires a beep tone to go off way too often. Performed in the Old Centrum, expect simplicity in the set-up. But with a wild ride like this on stage, you don’t need a lot of fancy trappings to distract you.

Recent Tragic Events continues through July 20 at 520 E. 12th St. Tickets are $10, $5 for students. Call 317-331-4592 for reservations.

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