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"Gun Club"
"Gun Club" (L-R): Brian Sacca (Klaus), Susan O'Connor (the girl).

"Gun Club"
Directed by Amy Feinberg
The Hypothetical Theatre Company
Resident Company of the 14th Street Y
344 E. 14th St.
Wed. and Th. At 7:30 p.m, Fri, and Sat. at 8 p.m. $15 in advance, $19 at the door
Ticketing: SMARTTIX (212) 206-1515 www.smarttix.
Opened Feb. 26, plays through March 23
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons

The stage at the Sol Goldman Y, where Hunt Holman's "Gun Club" runs until March 23 pretty much tells the audience what the play is about even before a word is uttered. One part of the stage is the home Max (Mark Hattan), the father of 18-year old Klaus, shares with his girlfriend, Tammy. The other is the home of his mother, Val (Irene McDonnell), where Klaus lives, along with his stepfather, Charles. And Klaus (Brian Sacca) shuttles between the two homes, arguing with everyone and deftly pitting one parent against the other.

Tammy (Dannah Chaifetz) is a childish blond bombshell mostly concerned with redecorating Max's home and making sure Klaus does not intrude on their time together. Charles (Kevin Hogan) is a childish writer who is suffering from writer's block and a vague sleeping disorder. Charles whines and throws tantrums to get his way. Tammy whines, throws tantrums and opens her robe.

If this sounds like the stuff of television sitcoms, to a great extent that's how director Amy Feinberg has Gun Club unfold. However, between the two homes there's the firing range of the Gun Club, where Max takes Klaus one weekend and where Klaus meets a young girl named Heidi (Susan O'Connor). And it's here that the comedy turns tragic.

Gun Club calls itself a dark drama. The genre generally deals with significant issues - alienation, injustice, morality and mortality. And it does so in a detached, ironic manner that allows the audience to laugh - although sometimes painfully.

Dark Comedy works best when writer and director are in tight control of their material. It requires a certain distance between the audience and the victims on stage; an audience in sympathy will not snicker.

Gun Club certainly treats an important subject - the way Baby Boomers have become self-indulgent parents more concerned with their own fulfillment than the emotional well-being of their children. But Holman is not interested in exploring all the causes and consequences of this situation. And he too obviously sides with poor Klaus to maintain the distance necessary for good dark comedy. Thus Gun Club careens wildly from sitcom to soap opera and back again.

Hattan, McDonnell, Hogan and Chaifetz all perform in classic sitcom style. They're sassy and sharp-witted. Their dialogue is caustic and clever, and it takes the action swiftly to a conclusion for which the audience has been only partly prepared.

Sacca and O'Connor have some truly touching moments together and their scenes might have been largely believable. But however many times they use the word "totally" it is not enough to disguise the fact that these two actors look like they've left their teenage years behind a while ago.

Mark Symczak's set includes a series of little model houses set on tables at the back of the stage. This is suburbia, Gun Club tells us. This is the place that destroys our children and decays our minds.

There's no doubt that Holman is focusing on something important, if not terribly original. But it would have been a lot more interesting if Holman had explored his subject in all its complexity. Exactly what has happened to the revolutionary ideas of the Baby Boomers? And why haven't their Generation X children made their own revolution?

Feinberg might have lent a correcting hand, by toning down the parents' obnoxiousness. After all, even the worst parents are willing to sacrifice something for their children. Or she could have made Klaus a little more ridiculous, so the audience could have had a good time and laughed at everyone. But she chose to be true to Holman's script.

Too true. [Simmons]

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