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GUNPLAY / Happiness Is A Warm Gun / The Complete History Of Firearms And High School Shootings
Written by Paul Rothwell
Directed by David Lawrence
Presented by The Bacchanals

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 20 Aug 2013 to 24 Aug 2013

Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 23 Aug 2013

A small arsenal of weapons are the main prop for a dark, satirical comedy about America's obsession with guns.

Just as there was a Grover's Corner in all fifty states for Thornton Wilder's famous play Our Town, so there is a Fairview for every state in Paul Rothwell's Gunplay, which begins with a Narrator introducing us to the citizens when suddenly and marvellously everyone sings a rousing and funny, full-on patriotic Broadway musical opening chorus.

Unlike Wilder's folksy, pipe smoking Narrator dispensing wisdom and talking of the eternal verities of small town America, Paul Rothwell's Narrator is a remote, cynical observer of the plain hometown folk.

And he has, of course, a lot to be cynical about, what with a corrupt sheriff, his kinky brother who wears a dress and thinks he's Shirley Temple, an extreme right-wing radio ham, a naive left-wing radical, an overly emotional woman who was once eighth runner-up in American Idol 2005, and Cody Garcia, described in the programme as an Everyman, who commits a massacre in the school gymnasium.

Seventeen regular members of The Bacchanals perform with pizzazz throughout this long and entertaining show, but they can't quite prevent the over-complicated plotting from slowing things down towards the end.

Or maybe we are just too familiar with the tragic consequences of, as David Lawrence writes in the programme, some Americans' God-given right to live out their fantasies regardless of the consequences.
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