The Events: Theater review by David Cote
Theater, because of its innate players-versus-audience configuration, always addresses some notion of community. Even so-called immersive or participatory shows make a temporary tribe of us. But The Events, inspired (wrong word) by the horrific 2011 Norway attacks carried out by Anders Breivik, wrestles with the meaning and function of social units in a shatteringly direct way. At once consoling and wounding, welcoming and alienating, it's an appropriately grief-clotted response to mass murder.
Though the piece was researched in Norway, playwright David Greig and director Ramin Gray avoid the documentary or reenactment approach, opting for open-source metaphor. The production, which originated in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe two years ago and toured throughout England, features two actors, a pianist and a local choir (the appealing group Chameleonic on the night I attended). Claire (Neve McIntosh) is a priest in the unnamed community who leads a multicultural choir. One day, they’re joined by the Boy (sly and quicksilver Clifford Samuel), who is invited to sing but instead chooses to spray bullets. Claire survives, mentally and spiritually scarred by the massacre. How could this happen? Is the Boy proof of evil in the world?
Complicating moral certainties is Greig’s decision to have Samuel shift from playing the killer to portraying various people in his orbit, all of whom have different takes on why he did it: racism, insanity, boredom. There’s an implicit debate in the piece about how to balance cultural difference with the human need for communal identity. There are no answers, just agonizing questions—and the heart-catching beauty of voices raised in unison.—David Cote
New York Theatre Workshop (see Off Broadway). By David Greig. Dir. Ramin Gray. With Neve McIntosh, Clifford Samuel. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote