BWW Review: THE GUN Shoots Slightly Off-Target
THE GUN/by Justin Yoffe/directed by Dave Florek/Ruskin Group Theatre/thru April 30, 2017
A solid acting ensemble fires up the Ruskin Group Theatre's world premiere of playwright Justin Yoffe's THE GUN. Dave Florek sure-handedly directs his talented cast at a brisk pace in this 60-minute one-act brimming with suspenseful taunt and tensioned urgency.
Steve - a struggling, not-yet-successful actor - crashes at his best friend Mike and his wife Ellen's place while auditioning and unsuccessfully finding himself. Steve's hang-dog attitude takes a 180-degree turn when he unexpectedly finds a gun in a garbage can. His newly-acquired self-confidence brings with it a god-like, know-it-all wisdom(?) that affects those around him in less than beneficial ways.
Yoffe's script starts off so thought-out and multi-layered with details of the characters slyly revealed. But Steve's post-gun speeches seems more robotic-shrink psycho babble than sensical. Steve becomes all-knowing, correcting and brutally putting Mike and Ellen in their respective, 'realistic' places.
Josh Drennen, as Steve, ably tackles the play's most challenging role, having to go from passively lackluster to take-charge bluster.
As Mike, the sensible bread-winner and responsible husband of Ellen; John Colella nails Mike's various character flaws - beating up on himself for readily kissing up to his boss, dismissively bickering with his wife, and ineffectually lecturing his longtime friend on growing up and assuming responsibility. Yet, in spite of these sadly conventional failings, one still feels invested in whether or not Colella's Mike pulls the trigger or not.
Austin Highsmith Garces vividly exposes Ellen's pain and unhappiness in Ellen's admission of settling for mediocrity. Is this to be considered the benefit or detriment of Steve's new-found bravado? Is Mike admitting to his errors of thinking - a good thing or a bad thing?
Scene stealer L. Emille Thomas grabs his short time on stage as a friendly bartender that doles out wise bartender-ly advice to Steve. Who knew greyhound stories could be so interesting!
Hamilton Matthews impresses as a homeless veteran discoursing, quite lucidly, on patriotism and guns. (Loved Matthews' entrance on stage!)
Mouchette Van Helsdingen registers as the stern director Steve auditions for.
Good economic use of set changes with set designer Hillary Bauman's easily movable kitchen table, chairs, bed and kitchen counter/bar in Bauman's efficient combo set of Steve and Ellen's place, with alley, bar, and acting studio stage.