By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
An actor (Andrew William Smith) speaks for a playwright (E. M. Lewis) and her relationship with guns, both positively and negatively, in E. M. Lewis’ “The Gun Show (Can we talk about this?).”
The actor shines a flashlight on the playwright sitting in the audience, claiming he is speaking her words. From that moment on, her multi-layered relationship with firearms unfurls in five personal stories throughout the course of the evening.
The actor shares her story, recounting it as if it is her own. It is a tale told with humor and honesty.
Lewis tries to move past the pundits on the issues, claiming that the talking heads on CNN and Fox can only shout at one another from their extremely distant corners. She lambasts the ultra-conservative gun owners on the right and the granola-crunching hippies on the left. She tears into the problem discussing the very real division between liberals and conservatives on the issue.
She ponders, through the actor’s voice, “What about the rest of us? What about the people in the middle?”
Growing up in rural Oregon, she makes a clear case for the need to own a gun. While, on the other hand, she tells a deeply moving story about how a gun changed her life forever.
After the performance, there is a talk back session wherein the audience can engage in the conversation.
Some of Lewis’s stories connect to the larger whole – some feel like tangents, but it is a bold and thoughtful 60 minutes on stage. The show is designed to provoke.
There is an unusual dynamic between the actor and the writer. There’s an homage to Nassim Soleimanpour’s “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” where the actor seems to be reading instructions for the first time, making the show feel very “in the moment.” Here, however, it’s a scripted trick, but it feels authentic. It works because Smith does a magnificent job pulling it off.
There is an awkwardness as the very male Smith expresses Lewis’ romantic feelings for her husband. It is a moment that is meant to convey unease, It is a separate conversation we need to have about masculinity and femininity.
Sheila McKenna keeps the story moving – literally and figuratively. The director allows Smith full use of the theater (stage and auditorium), instead of planting him behind a desk or on a chair the whole time.
There are a few props from Tucker Topel and the playwright. Lewis shares photos and other memorabilia for her life.
Another author named Lewis – C.S. Lewis – once said, “I seemed to hear God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we’ll talk.’”
It’s time to talk.
“The Gun Show (Can we talk about this?) runs through March 3 at various locations. For more information, click here.