One of the great religious debates since the Reformation has centered on the Catholic and Protestant positions regarding free will and predestination. Playwright Craig Wright modernizes the discussion by placing it squarely in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and the nation’s capital – and in particular, on what seems to be a truly bad blind date between Waverly and Andrew on 9/12. And for theatergoers who thought Who Wants Cake Theatre? was destined to stage only campy comedies and gay-themed plays, it’s latest endeavor, “Recent Tragic Events,” will be an impressive eye-opener they won’t soon forget!
A knock on the door reveals the arrival of wishy-washy Andrew, a shy 30-year-old bookstore manager at a Minneapolis airport who’s been set up with Waverly, an executive with a local advertising firm. Blind dates are stressful enough, but this one takes place the day after the destruction of the World Trade Center, and Waverly hasn’t been able to reach her identical twin, Wendy, who attends school not far from the tragic event. As Tom Brokaw’s reports on NBC lurk in the background, the two try to salvage a date that seems doomed from the start.
Or is it?
That’s the question playwright Craig explores, as events leading up to the date suggest that their meeting was inevitable. Or was it simply a series of random occurrences that brought the two together?
Don’t expect a definitive answer. After all, some of the greatest minds in Christianity have debated the issue without coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Yet Wright’s discussion is thoughtfully delivered, with witty and insightful dialogue – and a sock puppet in the role of Waverly’s “sort of” great aunt, author Joyce Carroll Oates.
Yes, you read that correctly: A bespectacled sock puppet with kinky black hair and bright red lips plays a major character in Wright’s unusual script. (There’s yet another rather unique “hook” to the show that generated much discussion during intermission last Saturday night, but I won’t spoil the fun for you.) It’s through the puppet that the show’s climactic discussions take place, and as odd as it may sound, the concept works. So much so that you forget it’s a beer-swilling sack of cloth and not a person – there’s a drinking game involved – almost to the point that it overshadows everyone else on stage.
Which, given director Joe Bailey’s talented cast, is tough to do. Melissa Beckwith and Joe Plambeck play off each other quite well as Waverly and Andrew, and free-spirited neighbor Ron is delightfully obnoxious in the hands of Chad Hetzel. Rio Scafone does double duty as Ron’s mostly silent bed mate Nancy and the puppeteer – playing both simultaneously in the second act – and she couldn’t be better!
‘Recent Tragic Events’
Who Wants Cake? Theatre at The Ringwald, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Fri.-Mon., through Oct. 8. Tickets: $10-$20. For information: 248-556-8581 or http://www.whowantscaketheatre.com