First Person Shooter
The Sacramento premiere of Bay Area playwright Aaron Loeb’s First Person Shooter is not for the faint of heart. This emotionally charged, foulmouthed and politically incorrect play dismantles a school shooting by so thoroughly examining it that all hope of an easy explanation for such stomach-turning violence is lost.
Kerry Davis (played with perfectly layered nerd-boy angst over repressed rage by Sam Misner) has designed an incredibly popular and extremely violent video game. When it is cited as an influence by two boys who go on a shooting rampage in a rural Illinois high school, killing 14 classmates and themselves, it unleashes his grief over the murder of his wife, as well as threatens his life’s work. As Kerry tries to save his company, the parents of the lone black shooting victim look for answers, and no one gets either what they want or deserve.
Instead, the audience gets an up-close examination of violence, race and privilege in a tautly constructed, incredibly paced two-hour production. Unexpected humor keeps the emotional weight of the subject matter from becoming overwhelming, but nonetheless, there’s plenty to think about. Who is responsible when children become killers? Why is “shooting” people in a video game considered entertaining? And how is it possible for parents to be unaware of what their children are doing to others?
Jonathan Williams has designed an incredibly flexible and functional set that is used to full effect under Molly Aaronson-Gelb’s deft direction. In addition to Misner, Adrian Roberts (as the grieving father of a victim) and Cole Alexander Smith (as Kerry’s slick, amoral and strangely likeable business partner) give outstanding performances.
While Loeb’s “day job”—CEO of a video-game company—no doubt contributes to the realistic and thoughtful narrative, the story remains both uncomfortable and achingly familiar. Capital Stage’s note-perfect production does it justice.