BWW Review: MORE GUNS! A Musical Comedy About the NRA
MORE GUNS! A Musical Comedy About the NRA
Book, Music and Lyrics by Philip Labes and Michael O'Konis
Directed by Zach Siegel
Musical Direction by Michael O'Konis
San Francisco theatre goers got gypped! Oh, not by this sensationally funny satire on America's gun culture, but by the fact that it only got a limited three-performance run. Running for the past 18 months in LA, a musical comedy that pokes fun at our warped political processes, conservatives and 'woke' liberals is perfect fodder for San Francisco audiences. Three sold put audiences here were treated to a perfect musical comedy- Great Performances, a compelling story and a fantastic hummable score.
Co-creators Michael O'Konis and Philip Labes took a shot (excuse the pun) on a song and dance satire of the National Rifle Association, and organization San Franciscans voted to classify a domestic terrorist group. MORE GUNS! Is not just a simple mockery of an easy target, but a smart, nuanced well-crafted piece of art. Labes, who was held up at gunpoint awhile back, wanted to take a deeper look at the NRA and their hold on American gun politics. According to Labes, "I was thinking about this travesty of American politics that there was this organization, the NRA, that seemed so sort of laughable in the way they behaved and operated. They seemed on the surface, to me as a liberal, just so evil. As a writer I was fascinated by that because something that is evil probably is interesting because there are things to uncover there."
The plot revolves around Ron Barkley (Andrew Pifko), head lobbyist for the NRA, who lost his wife to gun violence while waiting for her gun permit due to a background check. He's thrown himself fully to his work, neglecting his teenage daughter. Christina (Marnina Schon), the liberal daughter opposes dad, both ideologically and emotionally. Their family drama provides the main context around which many subplots revolve. Added to the comedy is Lisa Bushmaster (Caroline Thrasher), the no-nonsense head of the NRA who has a peculiar sexual connection to her handgun. Philip Labes is hilarious as Christina's uber-liberal tree-hugging boyfriend Wolf, who's over-the-top 'woke' PC.
Seeking divine intervention in his lobbying efforts, Ron prays to a voice-over God - and in return receives a magical gun that turns people into guns. Because the solution to America's gun violence problem is...MORE GUNS! The script is wickedly funny, and no one escapes the writer's astute barbs. For this San Francisco run, only four actors were utilized, forcing each to play multiple roles while Michael O'Konis accompanies on the piano. The acting is top notch, not smartly outlandish but never caricaturish.
The score elevates MORE GUNS! to a whole new level. Ron's "Everybody Do The Lobby" champions the power lobbyists hold over the country. Set to a 1940's dance melody, it reminds me of "42nd Street". Christina and Wolf's romantic duet "Liberal Love" exposes some of the extremes of the left as the sing that their favorite pronoun is "us". The same theme is repeated with Ron and his late wife Mary's version called "Conservative Love", followed by "Bipartisan Love" when Ron reconciles with Christina.
Along the comic path, fun is poked at: gun shows with its preponderance of loopholes and lack of liability, social media pundits who push ad links to ridiculous quizzes ("Is your quiet friend just stupid?", penis enlargement or sensational headlines, and the preposterous positions of the NRA itself. Throw is some great choreography by Dahlya Glick and clever direction by Zack Siegel and you have a exciting new musical gem. I'd say MORE GUNS! is a must-see, but you'll have to wait for a much longer, much deserved run in San Francisco at a later date.