A play about gun control, mental health, Robert Kennedy, and the Umpqua Community College shooting that forms a cohesive message without hitting the audience over the head with an anvil? It’s real, it’s bold, and it’s here in D.C. thanks to playwright-director Ginger Dayle and New City Stage Company.
The concept is ambitious – both in topic and in style – but the cast and crew have succeeded in creating an engaging production focused on the history of gun law reform, gun violence, and its impact on urban and rural environments in the United States from Bobby to Barack.
The play is set mostly in Oregon. The first timeline follows Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign on the West Coast in 1968, while the other timeline (woven around the first) takes place in 2015 focusing on Chris Harper-Mercer (the Umpqua shooter), his mother, and members of the Roseburg, Oregon community in the months leading up to Harper-Mercer’s attack at the school. Despite the seemingly disparate, coincidental connection of Roseburg – which is the location of one of Kennedy’s last speeches on gun control during the campaign – the piece rests on a strong foundation of the victims’ experiences in violent crimes.
closes July 22, 2017
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It is difficult to summarize this jam-packed play without giving too much away. But there are three especially memorable aspects that any viewer should pay attention to. First, Dayle’s approach to manifesting technological communication on stage is striking. Coordinated actors, lights, and animated projections bring a scene in a Twitter chatroom to a level of familiar alienation and chaos that is hard to replicate in live performance, but smoothly executed in this production. Second, the quilted-arrangement of the script allows room for multiple viewpoints to be introduced in nearly every scene, and Dayle makes sure each point is given natural breathing room. Perspectives are not dropped for the sake of superficial acknowledgement – even if just for a moment, each point is received before the scene progresses. This is an impressive balance of motives for the playwright, who does clearly fall to one side of the issue when all is said and done.
And lastly, you should look forward to some excellent dramatic portrayals by the cast as a whole, especially from Russ Widdall (Bobby Kennedy), Ebony Pullum (Laurel Harper), and AJ Klein (Chris Harper-Mercer). Whether by choice or by circumstance, these people have become figures in American history, and these actors illuminate their characters’ experiences with precision.
Don’t miss this unique take on these prevalent issues – add Roseburg to your must-see list now!