This Woody Harrelson written and directed play has generally not garnered favorable reviews so far and I was trepidatious about coming. However the Hart House theatre is a great venue where I've seen some amazing theatre and that coupled with a memory of a slight crush on Woody Harrelson during his White Men Can't Jump phase led me to buy a ticket.
The show does not contain Harrelson in the cast or during the curtain call at the Thursday night performance I attended. I'm not sure he was in the building as a sign in the lobby advertises "Talk-back after the show with the cast and Woody Harrelson" for dates earlier in the run and simply "Talk-back after the show with the cast" for mid and later dates. So despite all the posters, don't come to the show for Harrelson. But do come.
The play is set in Texas in the summer of 1983 and a great early 80's vibe is set as soon as you enter the theatre with the music of the era and continues with video clips of MTV, Reagan, etc.
The story concerns a group of friends led by Harrelson stand-in Zach (played by Brandon Coffey) who work together in construction. The group all meets up for a birthday dinner party where the host, a Nazi sympathizer, shows them his pistol. This pistol was used in an attempted murder of Adolf Hitler but when the trigger was pulled the gun jammed and the attempted murderer was executed. The host explains the gun represents to him the possibility of freedom of idea, that the lower echelons do not have to live in dictator rule, there is a way out. The party continues and at the end of the first act we learn the gun has been stolen.
This sets up a second act where everyone's a suspect and a mystery involving who stole the gun that really comes to nothing. Similarly the idea of the gun as a symbol of hope also comes to nothing and while the story does wrap up nicely it could have been made better by following through on the set up of hope or redemption presented in the first act.
This being said I had a good time. The play is funny without being overly crude. The characters are big and brash but it works in the setting and it makes you like them. The staging I found more than adequate with dry ice and gunfire and other neat tricks you don't often see in an amateur production.
Brandon Coffey is great as the Harrelson part, playing his "awe, shucks" persona for all it's worth and occasionally throwing in a sharp barb letting us know he's in on the action. At first I found Billy Petrovski as Dago-Czech to loud and overbearing but by the end I liked him too and he was routinely getting the laughs.
The highlight is David Coomber as Clint playing an effeminate straight man with gusto, really not afraid to show his stuff, both figuratively and literally.
A great fun evening out. Recommended.