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BWW Reviews: A Raw, Unflinching BANG BANG Shoots Point Blank - No Child's Play Here!

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Bang Bang/by Michael Kearns/directed by Mark Bringelson/ Highways Performance Space/thru April 25, 2015

World premiere of playwright Michael Kearns' Bang Bang will leave you stunned and loss for words. Heartrending tales of tragedy weaved together by the common denominator of a gun (hence, Bang Bang) will rip your heartstrings and possibly cause a flow of tears. Ably directed by Mark Bringelson at an even, fast clip; his talented cast succeeds in presenting actual human faces to the oft-times, de-personalized news accounts of these all-too-common fatal occurrences.

Framed as shooting a documentary on people's fixation for guns, documentarian Peter (a strong Michael Matts) has sex (nude, explicit sex) with his first subject Padric (Mike Ciriaco, charismatic with a pretty consistent Irish brogue). Padric's gun fascination stems (as he claims) from his father Thomas Dudley, a hired gun in Ireland renown for shooting fellow Irishman in bars and public places, all pre-arranged-sometimes faked, sometimes not.

Second subject, Sandy (a phenomenal Lizzie Peet), the mother of Suzee and now-widow of Jesse mourns both just killed in a killing spree at Suzee's grade school. As her coping mechanism, Sandy spends hours ironing and re-ironing Suzee's old clothes which dregs up different memories of her little girl. Peet's powerfully heart-wrenching!

All gather at a group therapy session led by DrJackl (an intense, committed David Pevsner). Seems this well-intentioned shrink used his HIV-positive status as a calling card for attracting his gay clientele - "more relatable," he rationalizes. And with his further attempts "to be more relatable, " DrJackl creates an alter ego "MisterHide&Seek" for online hook-ups. His obsession plunges downhill quickly to sticking guns up guy's anal cavities. And then pulling the trigger. Not for the easily faint of heart.

Another participant in this therapy group, a numbered, orange jumpsuit-clad Bea (a resilient, very sympathetic JoNell Kennedy) introduces her tale with the fond musings of Chicago's "Cellblock Tango." "He had it coming," Bea repeats between the happy reminiscence of meeting her new boyfriend who pimped her out. "He had it coming," describing how she caught him in the act of abusing her little girl. "He had it coming," ultimately shooting him in the heart while atop of her little girl. Wow!

The unassuming figure semi-hidden upstage for most of Bang Bang finally reveals himself as Laurence, a cop, played by a totally riveting Ryland Shelton. Laurence's tasked with retrieving the surviving students hidden from the crazed gunman to reunite them with their fraught waiting parents outside the school's perimeters. As Shelton oh-so-vividly describes rescuing the traumatized kids one by one, you can actually visualize Laurence gently picking up each child while tenderly calming them with heartfelt words of comfort, instructing them to "make sure you close your eyes," and cradling them like the precious gifts of life that they truly are. Simply amazing performance, Mr. Shelton!

Bravo to Kearns for a beautiful and meaningful script full of realistic dialogue from real, three-dimensional people. But with the amount of gay sex depicted on stage, prospective audiences might be limited to those more blasé viewing nude gay sex in a theatre setting. Those of a like mind to Billy Crystal's (who recently commented he didn't want gay sex scenes shoved in his face) might need to avoid this show altogether, no matter how powerful Kearns' message might be. (Although Crystal later clarified his statements to include hetero sex scenes.)

And does Bang Bang's ending circle back to its beginning, as in a never-ending circle/cycle? Things that make you go- Hmmm???

www.michaelkearns.net


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