One of the beautiful things about our “theater scene” is the little, intimate spaces and the thought-provoking productions that they present to us. The North Berwyn Park District and their “16th Street Theater”, now in its 7th season, is one of these bright spots. Their current production “The Gun Show” written by EM Lewis ,while short in running time (approx 75 minutes-I will explain later) is an amazing “one person” show that deals with a problem that is brought to mind every Monday morning when we hear the number of shootings that took place over the weekend. The numbers keep growing and yet, there are many who say that “guns do not kill people”! “It is people who kill people”!
In this marvelous little tale, which in reality is five stories relating to guns, we travel from a rural town in Oregon to Los Angeles andthen to New Jersey as we learn a great deal about Ms Lewis’ personal life with firearms. Just so you will not get confused from the start, her character is portrayed by a male actor, played to perfection by Juan Francisco Villa ( many might recall his wonderful one man show “Empanada for a Dream” that we saw last year) who plays the audience quite well. Ms. Lewis was in the opening night audience (I am not sure if she will be for the entire run) which had a great impact on us. Villa, as directed by Kevin Christopher Fox, on a simple set with mainly props and lighting along with music to keep our focus, does so with great eye contact. The script is in his hand, as instructed by the playwright (or so we are informed) and he also advises us of all the side notes that an author feels should be in place, down to the pauses. This is dramatic license and it works.
There are five stories, one of which may have more bearing on how you see the story than another. In fact, each audience member will find different places to clutch on to as we see just how “guns” have an impact on our lives. Are we safer because we own a gun? Will an honest person become someone other than who they are because they have a gun? Will someone who is upset and”down” use a gun to take his or her own life? Will someone commit a crime with less fear of what might happen, because they have this weapon?
This is a meaningful look at a situation that exists today. One that is very scary as we see school situations where someone snaps and takes many “Innocents” with them. I will not get into the nitty-gritty of what takes place in these “five stories”, but will tell you that this is an eye opening look at what we know exists and must be solved. When the performance was over , the audience was asked to take the stage for a small (being only a 50 seat house) group project made up of “word association” and audience members remarking about what they saw and heard. A chilling experience as some of them had their own” Gun Stories”. I had one as well! Many years ago, while in a building on the north side, I heard some moaning and groaning and saw an apartment door ajar. In the light of the sun, I saw a young man standing over two elderly people on the floor. This was back before cell phones, so I crept down the stairs to seek help, but never made it. Suddenly, the murderer of these people jumped the stairs and at gunpoint took my money and my car. To this day I find myself very fortunate that he did not pull the trigger. But as someone who has had a gun pointed at his face, I can tell you the fear never goes away!
This is not a production that is geared for younger people as it may be very difficult to understand how people can live with this. If we think back in time, it was guns that made America’s growth possible. But was it just as bad for those who suffered at our early settler’s hands as well. This is an experience that will be thought-provoking and open your eyes, but you only have until August 2nd and this is a tiny space. Performances are as follows:
Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m.
Monday,July 28th at 7:30 p.m. Actors night
added Sunday Matinee at 3 p.m. July 20th
The 16th Street Theater is located at 6420 West 16th Street (just west of Austin Blvd) in Berwyn and while there is street parking, please pay heed to the signs on the streets so you do not get a ticket.
Tickets are a mere $18, a bit more than a movie for live theater and can be purchased by calling 708-795-6704 or online at www.16thstreettheater.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Gun Show”