Review by Adam Collier
Through the second-half of Just Another School Shooting I just listened with my head-hung. I felt so disappointed.
To be fair, the title offers a clue about the content. The first two words hint at a glib treatment of its subject. I didn’t pick-up on this before going in though. And I’m still not sure if the writing was intentionally bad – mocking its subject – or sincere but poor (or maybe a bit of both).
The characters for example came across at first as having the promise of being more than clichés. Shannon Lee, the Gothic Punk (Anna Dulcette) has the high self-esteem I’d generally associate with a cheerleader, the Cheerleader (Ellen Jefferies) comes-across as obsequious and emotionally vulnerable, while the girl who’s always reciting facts has – as we find-out – acted with the heroism you might expect of the jock (she disarms a grenade on the day of the shooting).
But soon enough character clichés surface. The Goth comes-across as snide and is derisive toward nearly everyone, the Cheerleader as vapid, and the nerd (described in the notes as “Scholar” played by Genevieve Furlotte-Moore) talks in boring declarative sentences, always factual. The three seem about as far alienated from one another, intellectual and emotionally, as they possibly could be.
The big change – I suppose – in the world of this high school is when the jock (“Athlete,” played by Joe Alderson) rolls onstage. Though he seems pretty resigned to not using his legs, and shakes-off all the repercussions of this with a few off-hand remarks.
My mind began to drift about what the playwright Gerald Arthur Moore was trying to say after hearing line after what seemed like about fifteen minutes of extraneous topical discussion. Was Mr. Moore attempting to make school shootings seem small in the grand scheme of events by having his characters talk about nuclear weapons? Was this a genuine inquiry about the nature of evil when they discuss the media treatment of school violence?
I never got more than a vague sense of what all the talk was supposed to achieve. My friend told me she felt that she had missed something. I felt similarly. Just Another School Shooting doesn’t seem to have a distinct take on its subject. Though the title suggests a complacent cynical tone, which is echoed by the Goth who seems to be the strongest character, I also got the impression Mr Moore was aiming at serious intellectual debate (between the Jock and the nerd), and realism – though the latter seems nearly impossible; my friend and I agreed the dialogue was incredibly flat.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Just Another School Shooting was the acting and direction. The delivery was slow and halting. Nothing happens on stage either (save for a brief scene at the end; a re-enactment of the shooting itself). I definitely wouldn’t recommend this play.
– Just Another School Shooting is on at the Royal St. George Auditorium (220 Howland Avenue)
– It is playing as a production of the Fringe Festival, with one more show: Sunday, July 13th at 5:45
– Tickets are available at the door for $10 – for more information visit the Toronto Fringe web site.