Review: GUNTOPIA at The Roustabouts Theatre Co

Playing through April 2nd

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It took 3 years and one pandemic, but Will Cooper's world premiere satire gUnTOPIA has finally opened to audiences at The Roustabouts Theatre Co. The show is a dark comedy pondering what life and society could look like if gun ownership was universal, and not carrying a weapon was against the law. gUnTOPIA is playing through April 2nd.

When the show opens, we find June (Elena Bertacchi) petting her dog, before starting to play with her brother Bobby (Eben Rosenzweig). As they chase each other around they pull out their guns and yell "Bang" at each other until Bobby, who didn't have his safety on, accidentally kills his sister. When their father Harry (Phil Johnson) and their mother Mary (Katie Karel) come in and see what has happened their unperturbed reaction gives the audience an immediate idea of how different things may be in their gun-filled utopia.

While there is no time period of when this is set, the aesthetic is that 1950's ideal that gets touted a lot; mom is a homemaker, dad is the stern but loving and supportive ideal, and there are the 2 kids and a dog. The audience would be forgiven for thinking they were watching "Leave It To Beaver" and then wondering when "The Twilight Zone" music was going to kick in.

If June's shooting caused very little fuss from the parents or Detective Rheingold (Walter Murray), there is a lot of fuss when an orphan girl named Alice (also Elena Bertacchi) who looks just like June, is brought over to the house. The school counselor Consuela (Veronica Burgess) explains the poor girl needs a home since her parents were killed in crossfire when a shooting broke out at a local store. The girl has gone from family to family, with none keeping her for very long.

The trouble is that Alice won't touch a gun, aka she's a "ballistaphobe" which is the highest sin imaginable. They immediately wonder if she has some sort of mental illness, but when someone mentions PTSD from the shooting all three adults laugh and ask, "who could have PTSD from a shooting?"

Mary doesn't want a gun-phobic girl in her house when good girls carry guns and are shooting champions. Instead, she would prefer to have a baby and start over. Bobby is hysterical that people will see Alice and think that he is a bad shot and didn't even kill his sister. Harry is conflicted and feels drawn to help this poor girl fit in with not just the family but society as well. Even the burglar alarm machine gun is suspicious of Alice and tracks her movements wherever she goes.

Directed by mother and daughter team Rosina Reynolds and Kate Rose Reynolds, the play is unsettling in its juxtaposition of the conventional ideal of family and lifestyle combined with the casual acceptance and religious-like fervor for guns. The play is meant to provoke a response and hopefully start some conversations.

Armorer Dan R. Cheatham II is part of the creative team to assist the entire cast with their ability to handle the non-firing replica weapons in a realistic manner. The set by Tony Cucuzella is a cozy domestic setting, with lighting by Michelle Miles, and props by Alyssa Kane. The sound design by Jon Fredette features atmospheric birds chirping and neighborhood gunshots.

While the opening scene is sure to capture the audience's attention, soon the premise wears a bit thin with too much show still left to go. Ultimately each character is too much of a sitcom caricature and the show doesn't have any stakes to truly be vested in the outcome.

Please note that due to the subject matter, some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. The Roustabouts Theatre Co. will have audience talkbacks after certain performances with speakers and dates listed below.

Saturday, March 25 (Matinee) - "A Look at Upcoming Legislation" with Therese Hymerand Ron Marcus

Sunday, March 26 - "Restorative Justice for the Community" with Azim Khamisa, Zander Gold, and Rabbi Matt Marko

Saturday, April 1 (Matinee) - "A Gunowner Perspective" with Gary Beals and Janessa Goldbeck

Sunday, April 2 - "A Look at Upcoming Legislation" with California State Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and San Diego Councilmember Marni VonWilpert

How To Get Tickets

gUnTOPIA from The Roustabouts Theatre Co. is playing at MOXIE Theatre through April 2nd. For ticket and show time information please go to

Photo credit: The cast of gUnTOPIA - photo by Daren Scott


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