A thoughtful and well-realised production, this play provides a personal perspective on the debate surrounding American gun ownership. Staged in the gloomy basement auditorium of Space Triplex, T
Beautifully executed, moving and occasionally funny
Skillfully directed by Shawn Lee, the performance explores gun culture through a monologue recounting the author’s personal experiences. However, five minutes into the show it is revealed that an actor, Vin Shambry, is speaking the words of the author, E. M. Lewis, while she sits in the front row of the audience. The acting is an outstanding masterclass in theatrical storytelling. Shambry demonstrates peerless stage presence as he deftly moves the audience from a cheery sing-along to a poignant, pin-drop silence. The nuanced and moving performance is made more intriguing by the fact that Shambry, a black man, is portraying Lewis, a white woman. This dynamic becomes especially interesting at certain moments throughout the play, such as when the Lewis (via Shambry) discusses being intimidated by armed police.
The show does not delve too deeply into the politics of the issue, and it steers clear of suggesting solutions or adopting an exact position. Instead the playwright laments how the debate has been hijacked by the “flag drapey yahoos” of the National Rifle Association on the one hand, and by “granola-eating hippies” on the other. The nuanced middle ground is overlooked, she complains. This feels like a slightly unsatisfactory cop-out, but the play gets away with it by emphasising that it is a personal story.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the show was the audience response. During the informal post-show discussion many audience members, clearly affected by the issues raised, shared their own experiences of American gun culture and many were visibly tearful. The touching scene testifies to the show’s success in handling such a sensitive political topic - and the emotional impact it can make.
Beautifully executed, moving and occasionally funny, The Gun Show is a performance that is well worth seeing.