‘Recent Tragic Events’ is a powerful drama

Photo by Krista Schaefer Ewbank. The Open Book Theatre Company presents “Recent Tragic Events” through Nov. 19 at the theater, 1621 West Road, Trenton, with Richard Payton (left) of Ferndale as Andrew, Joe Sfair of Eastpointe as Ron, Erika Hoveland of Royal Oak as Nancy, and Kimberly Alley of Redford Township as Waverly. For tickets or more information call 734-288-7753 or go to openbooktc.com.

Craig Wright’s “Recent Tragic Events,” set the day after 9/11, looks at a small group of people on Sept. 12, 2001, as they grapple with what has happened and how their world will change.

The powerful play, directed by the talented Topher Payne at the Open Book Theatre Company in Trenton, is well-acted, and the audience is drawn into the drama as people in an apartment wait with the female protagonist to hear from her New York City-dwelling sister, or worse yet, to hear the unthinkable.

If Facebook had been present in 2001 as it is today, one wonders if the reaction of the nation would have been expressed in a markedly different way. Take, for example, today’s post-election shock and its emotional hangover. Feelings are raw, people are venting, and – like 9/11 – our nation will never be the same.

Waverly, played by Kimberly Alley of Redford Township, and Andrew, portrayed by Richard Payton of Ferndale, decide to go on their first blind date together, but find themselves staying in Waverly’s apartment with Joe Sfair of Eastpointe as Ron, a neighbor, and Erika Hoveland of Royal Oak as Nancy, Ron’s “friend with benefits.”

Alley successfully finds the right blend of anxiety and vulnerability. Audiences will see her as someone who would be in their circle of friends, and identify with the weight of emotion she carries as she tries to come to terms with events outside her control.

Payton captures the nervous guy thrown into a first date under extenuating circumstances very well. He also carries a secret, and finds it in himself to stay with Waverly, and not bail physically and emotionally, as he is repeatedly tempted to do. Payton pulls off a tough role well, showing his vulnerability with grace under tough circumstances.

Sfair provides the much-needed comic relief with aplomb. He embodies the weird, flaky friend that everyone has, loves fiercely, finishes sentences with and wouldn’t think of relinquishing.

Hoveland plays a quiet free spirit walking around in a long T-shirt and little else until she acquieses and dons sweatpants in deference to a VIP visit. She also adroitly handles the unique representation of Waverly’s wise aunt, Joyce Carol Oates, humorously represented by a sock puppet and voiced by Hoveland. The odd representation gives us a celebrity to dispense wisdom, delivered with the intimate touch of a revered relative, yet silly enough as a puppet to not be too pedantic.

The play is fascinating and fast-paced, and while the topic is a sad one, the story shows people finding their strength from within and from each other, as well finding their compassion for each other.

Remaining performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 17, 18 and 19 at 1621 West Road in Trenton.

Tickets are $20, with a $5 discount for students and seniors. To order tickets, go to openbooktc.com. For more information, call 734-288-7753.

HILBERRY, BONSTELLE COLLABORATE WITH ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’

Wayne State University’s graduate level Hilberry company and the undergraduate Bonstelle troupe combine to bring a memorable production of “A Christmas Carol” to the Bonstelle stage.

Lonely and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge encounters spirits from the past, present and future the night before Christmas to give him a chance to choose a new path in life.

The theater department is collecting non-perishable canned food for Gleaner’s Community Food Bank at each performance, and patrons buying their ticket in person and donating food will receive a $5 ticket discount.

Director Tom Aulino, assistant professor of theater, said with the story engrained in our culture and retold in many ways, we lose sight of its origin.

“It is easy to forget that the original novel was written by the same man who wrote ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘David Copperfield,’ ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Oliver Twist,’” Aulino said. “It is a joy to bring this story once again to the stage and to listen to it anew through the original words of the great Charles Dickens.”

The show runs 7 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 8 to 10, and 15 to 17; 2 p.m. Dec. 7; and 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 18 at the theater, 3424 Woodward in Detroit.

Tickets range from $10 to $30. To order tickets, go to theatreanddance.wayne.edu. For more information call 313-577-3508.