The Story of the Gun
through Jan. 12
“There’s no such thing as gun control in this country. There are 340 million guns in the country. And 330 million people.”
It’s far from the first discouraging word monologist Mike Daisey utters in his solo show, The Story of the Gun
, which premiered Wednesday night and runs through Sunday at PlayMakers Rep.
His one hour, 45 minute work begins with the somber words, “I’m sorry you’re here this evening.” The line gets laughs, before he devotes a bit too much of the first section of his show expatiating on the supposed futility of the enterprise. “Some of you are older,” he notes, “and have more wisdom than me about how fucking useless this conversation is going to be.”
Daisey then takes on the comical voice of a supposed theater-goer: “TONIGHT
we’re going to talk about GUNS! THAT
will be so much fun! And hasn’t it gone SO WELL
up to now??”
True to form, a generous dose of gallows humor and trademark acerbic wit vitalizes Daisey’s monologue throughout the brief evening. And while it’s contemplative in places (another Daisey hallmark), the work can never really be called a downer.
Some amount of recap is inevitable when taking on a topic so ingrained in a culture. Daisey briefly revisits recent atrocities—but refuses to mention them individually while on stage. “There’s no point in naming them all,” he says, claiming that our culture has already turned their names into talismans, charms on some unspeakable bracelet. “They’re not special,” he notes. “They’re a pathology.”
Such sober revelations are leavened with lighter historical lessons. How many know that the first battle of the Revolutionary War, at Lexington, was fought by a bunch of drunks?
Elsewhere, Daisey chortles in mock glee over the prospects of owning a handgun of his own: “Now you can stand your ground when you feel threatened. I feel threatened all the time. When I get a gun, oh my God, you people had better look out. I’ll be standing my ground everywhere. I threaten very easily.”
The monologist’s eye for the telling detail is on display in his close observations on the design and manufacture of handguns. “They’re the sharks of industrial design,” he notes. “They’ve been around so long and become so effective, they’re just not evolving much any more.” Casting a look back to the first European presence on the continent, he concludes that there would have been no “New World” without firearms: “We couldn’t have asserted our undeniable supremacy without them.”
But the heart of this endeavor, the real story of the gun, lies in Daisey’s finely detailed remembrance of his father who, as a therapist in Maine, would keep the firearms of his patients when they no longer felt safe having them around. A secret communion with those guns, kept in a locked box in his parents' basement, form Daisey’s most affecting earliest memories on the subject.
And given the storyteller’s ability to bind an audience in his tales, it may well prove the same for many in his audience. If more stories like this are introduced into our national conversation on guns, the outcome may yet change.