A road trip may be just what Hannah and Cooper need to salvage their marriage from the wreckage of a recent tragedy. While Hannah is content to play car games, Cooper is determined to confront the details of the traumatic event that has led them on this journey to reconnect. As they fight through the traffic and the secrets between them, Hannah and Cooper travel in and out of their memories and must both question whether they can trust each other— or themselves. At once humorous and heartbreaking, A Version of Events masterfully explores the choice between truth and peace in a marriage.
As the straitlaced and sulking Cooper pulls the car into a Pennsylvania Wawa, Hannah panics with the realization that she lost a family heirloom at the 9/11 monument in New York. Hannah— a handful at the best of times— is inconsolable and stomps into the convenience store. Ticked off, Cooper calls his mom, gets her voicemail, and pleads with her to reassure him a road trip is the right idea and that God is there. Cooper and Hannah left Utah and drove east to reignite their marriage, but apparently Hannah refuses to talk and Cooper has gotten suspicious. Worse, when Hannah comes back, she’s inexplicably perky. (Her moods go up and down without warning.) But Cooper takes what he can get. Reality blurs as Hannah is wowed by the sunset and loses herself in a good/bad memory.
On the road, Cooper and Hannah play a game: You-‘N-Me Trivia. Cooper obsessively checks his cell phone for a message from his mom, but impresses Hannah by knowing the time and place of her first kiss. They laugh together until they pass an anti-abortion billboard, which throws Hannah into another funk. Cooper’s baffled by why she would be upset. (Isn’t she pro-life?) They butt heads, and Hannah tries to trumps the argument with her excitement for Chocolate World— their Pennsylvanian destination and the only place Hannah wants to go. Cooper derails her by holding onto her comment about abortion. Reality blurs into a fantasy of Cooper dazzling Hannah with the game Movie Line.
The Rest Stop
Cooper pulls into a scary rest stop so Hannah can pee— again. Cooper wants her to do a pregnancy test. (They’ve been trying again.) While Hannah’s gone, Cooper looks in her diary and gets upset at what he sees. As Hannah returns, she tosses the pregnancy test on the ground, hops into the car, and kisses Cooper with passion, and then tries to convince them that they’re free from the past. Cooper disagrees and pries into the real reason Hannah lost it at the 9/11 monument. Was it the “unborn children part”? Is this “about the little guy”? Hannah evades and demands to know why Cooper has been checking his cell phone so much. Cooper evades. She tells him it’s OK to talk about “him.” Reality blurs into Hannah’s fantasy of cinematic vulnerable lovemaking.
In traffic, Cooper and Hannah yell about 9/11 conspiracies, and he subtly accuses her of not being truthful with him. He picks again at her comment on abortion. Hannah lays herself emotionally bare to him and he suggests that she needs therapy. Hannah loses it, cranks up the music, and sings. She hangs out the window and red and blue lights flash behind them. It’s not a fantasy.
Waiting for their speeding ticket, Hannah cracks a racist joke. Cooper flips his lid and demands to know who she has become. Hannah accuses Cooper of always trying to categorize her and keep her in her place. Again, she says the past doesn’t matter, and Cooper uses her diary against her. Under a section titled “My favorite memories of him” (their dead child), Hannah has written nothing. Hannah wants to how what Cooper would prefer her to process her grief. She all but calls him a chauvinist and compares him to her hated stepfather. They calm down some. Reality blurs into Hannah singing a ballad.
As Hannah sings, Cooper drives and confesses that he doesn’t know who he is. He recalls their early courtship in college and admits he has a time-travel fantasy about going back to fix their life. Hannah is first flattered and then mortified. He’s basically saying that because they did drugs in college, their child was born with disabilities. Cooper tries to backpedal, and be truly open with her, but Hannah speeds into a tirade about their religion. She charges Cooper with being in league with his mother to pressure her to have another baby. She charges him with taping to the dash a picture of Braeden— their dead son— to torture her. There’s a thunderstorm. Reality blurs as Cooper weeps and imagine he’s rocking his baby son again.
Forced to exit I-78 and take shelter in a tourist information center, Cooper offers Hannah a Hershey’s bar as part of a truce. She refuses it. They play a game of 20 Questions in which Cooper breaks the rules. He’s thinking not of a thing, but a painful concept. When Hannah finally guesses what it is, she runs into the rain. Cooper chases her and, at last, confronts her about the horrible, pressed-down suspicions he’s had since Braeden’s funeral. In the end, reality blurs as they dance on the wet pavement and across the green landscape.
With Hannah driving, they play one last game— the Tunnel Game. They hold their breath, grab each other’s hand, and hurtle into the dark.
Masterful. An emotional roller coaster.
–The Salt Lake Tribune
Hannah – A mid-30s, liberal Mormon who wants to move on.
Cooper – A mid-30s, liberal Mormon who is suspicious of his wife.
Setting: I-78 West; the imagination; a gas station, a rest stop, a tourist center; a car traveling slowly westward, away from the World Trade Center and toward Chocolate World in Pennsylvania. The route is green, hilly, and punctuated by inflammatory political ads and glow-in-the-dark signs like "Jesus Saves."
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“In the space of an hour and a half, Bennett’s script weaves elements of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling into an emotionally uncompromising story” –Salt Lake Magazine
“The characters and dialogue are as starkly realistic as imaginable, revealing just how disastrous the effects of contempt and criticism can be as two people struggle to know and love each other again amidst the harrowing emotional challenges of coping with a child’s death.” –Salt Lake Magazine
“What sets apart the script is Bennett’s richly complicated, layered dialogue, threaded through with song lyrics, car games and pop-cultural references.” –The Salt Lake Tribune
“A Version of Events is bold, fearless, exciting... and you should probably go see it.” –Utah Theatre Bloggers Association
“Hannah and Cooper’s marriage is the central concern of this play, and they hold to it and fight for it through games, through music, and ultimately, by battling it out in fairly vicious style.” –Utah Theatre Bloggers Association
“Beautiful and poignant dialogue!” –Utah Theatre Bloggers Association
“This is a play that is not only important, but enjoyable, and worth the ride.” –Utah Theatre Bloggers Association
“Magnificent in every aspect.” –The Utah Review
“The play vigorously challenged cultural conventions about how we deal with grief.” –The Utah Review
“A compelling piece of theater, with form and content in near-perfect harmony.” –Salt Lake City Weekly
“Impossible to look away even if one wanted to.” –Salt Lake City Weekly
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The production materials for A\Version of Events include:
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