What would you do if your liberal friends revealed that they were proud gun owners?
This is the question that is asked during Stephanie Alison Coleman’s new play Friends With Guns. It’s a question that I, someone who is very anti-gun, never really asked myself. I never had to, as most of my friends are also the type of liberals that are also anti-gun.
Friends With Guns is the smart new play that has opened up at the Off-Leash Art Box. It tells the story of two adult couples who meet through their kids. One is liberal and anti-gun, the other is liberal, pro-gun, and keeps numerous guns in a safe. This drives the two couples’ relationship with each other into rocky territory. After a while, the wife anti-gun couple, Shannon, is convinced to open her mind and goes to a shooting range with Leah, the wife of the other couple. This brings up many questions about women protecting themselves and what guns can mean when treated properly and with respect. Meanwhile, Josh, Shannon’s husband, has become obsessive in changing this new openness in Shannon, scaring her into feeling she needs to protect herself. The play ends with her buying a gun.
It’s not only a smart book, but it’s also refreshing. It challenges the ideals of liberal people who are more likely to come see this show. The play is a simple one, played with four actors, and I’m very glad Shalee Mae Coleman’s direction stayed simple. The usage of blocks for the set made sense and nothing seemed too overpowered for the little space we were in. Moments that stuck with me were actually when upstaging was used, like as the glass broke after Josh threw it during an argument.
The performances of the actors were splendid, Jen Scott, Jess Grams, Tony Larkin, and fourth actor named Doc Woods. He was on for Dante’ Pirtle and on book for the performance. These actors really worked together to pull off a powerful performance.
Jenn Scott played Shannon, who was arguably our lead. She was the first person we saw and the lens through which the audience sees the show. From the first monologue she delivered I knew she was going to bring a great performance, and she lived up to it throughout the whole show. This character really shows off a full range of emotions and I cannot imagine how tired Scott is after a run of the show. I’m sure I’ll see Scott in other things in the future, and I cannot wait.
Jess Grams played Shannon’s new friend Leah. Leah is one in the gun-owning couple who also enjoys surfing and yoga. Grams’ performance was my favorite in the show. I loved the way she really empowered her character and you understood where she was coming from. She made Leah into a total best friend and, when Leah had her moments, gave us raw emotion, which I was really able to get into as an audience member. Grams’ delivered on making the point of this play clear and helped me open my eyes.
Tony Larkin, playing Shannon’s husband Josh, was the most interesting performance (not in a bad way). His character is very anti-gun and will go to the ends of the earth to convince you to be too. Larkin played his character with such a sweetness at first, and then was able to pull it all away to reveal something darker. I loved how two-toned this character was written and performed. I was genuinely scared of Larkin. So, I’d call that a job well done on his part.
Friends With Guns is a simple and thought-provoking show. I had my mind blown seeing people exist who I never thought could: liberal and pro-gun. But there are lots of reasons why this happens, especially for liberal women. For them, it’s protection in a world where they don’t always have the power. There’s a story told by Leah in this play that is the perfect reason for us to not judge others if they responsibly own guns. It really changed my viewpoint around.
Friends With Guns has ended its run, but Uprising Theatre next show opens