March 17-25, Theatre Huntsville ran a very funny show, Duck Hunter Shoots Angel. If the title sounds like a tabloid headline, you are right on target–that’s exactly what it is. That also gives you an inkling of what this show was like. This is the story of two hapless Alabama hunters, who think they have shot an angel instead of a duck. They call their favorite source of news, The Weekly World and Globe, a tabloid rag that aspires to the heights of the grocery store check-out line. A world-weary reporter and photographer are sent to cover the story, who end up in a race with the major news outlets to break the story. The emotional weight centers on the reporter, who is over-tired of his job, and has his own, very personal, reasons for not wishing to return to the South. That aside, this is a comedy, and the story is as funny as one would expect, with many laugh-out loud moments.
The protagonist for the play is the reporter, as we watch him get dispatched to Alabama against his wishes, and he has a running dialogue with a mysterious voice throughout, to whom he tells the story of the whole adventure. The script, written by northerner Mitch Albom, walks a fine line in its jokes about Southerners, unfortunately occasionally dipping across the line into insulting. The local audience generally let that slide, but this show probably gets much larger laughs elsewhere in the country. For some reason, the playwright also tried to give this farce some depth, with moral lessons about stereotypes and ultimate redemption. On some levels, these work, but mostly they come across as merely cheesy and contrived, and just more excuses for jokes. That said, don’t get me wrong, I really like this script. It’s comfort food for the soul–we know it’s lacking the depth and substance it pretends to have, but we really don’t care, because it’s such a fun show, with fun characters, we push back from the table feeling warm and comforted.
This production did miss the mark a bit on the romantic backstory, because there was almost no chemistry in the flashbacks between the protagonist and his ex-girlfriend. That had unfortunate implications at the end, as the denouement lacked some of its potential emotional weight. The mysterious voice, with whom the reporter has a running conversation, was played throughout like an interview with god, but that unfortunately became very odd when the source of the voice was finally explained. But thankfully, the play spends most of its time in the swamps, which the two hunters are too afraid to leave, and that is where this production shined.
Josh Phillips and Tyler England, as the duck-hunting brothers, “Duane” and “Duwell”, were simply marvelous, playing their over-the-top characters with heart and conviction. Paul Ferguson, as the reporter, “Sandy”, put in a good effort, and managed to give us an anchor for the audience to hang onto as it experienced the crazy antics of the rest of the show. There was some very nice supporting work from much of the rest of the cast, including Jeremy Woods, Kailey Burkhardt, and Art Whalthall. Kudos to the Scene Designer, James Bleier, for a wonderful swamp. Cynthia Meyer’s lighting did a fine job of painting the various locales and effects, and Pam Anders’ costumes well supported the characters.
The afore-mentioned easing in my schedule did not materialize, and I am out of town for much of the summer. I will try to use the time to catch up with posting reviews of shows I HAVE seen. The schedule of upcoming productions and audition dates is still as accurate as I can make it. As always, the best way to reach me is at “HuntsvilleTheatreReviews(at)gmail(dot)com”.