Centered around the heated issue of gun violence in America, this piece written by John Moore takes the argument that we’ve all seen play out a hundred times on our news feeds and places it in the domestic setting of the suburban Evangelical hotbed Colorado Springs. What begins to feel like a stereotypical attempt at a quaint, heartwarming play about a family coping with loss is overturned and flipped upside down when Obama, quite literally, comes for their guns.
Statistics and current events in media are presented in recurring heavy- handed interludes, or are integrated clumsily into the dialogue. A further absurdist twist, in which the very format of the play collapses on itself, is a device employed a little too late in the piece. This is used as an attempt to justify the script’s exhausting use of clichéd lines and overabundance of sentimentality during the first hour. This “it’s okay because we’re self-aware” mindset feels like a cop out.
Theatre about social issues is often subject to any of a number of pitfalls: only asking questions, presenting only one final answer and vilifying opposing viewpoints to the political agenda of the authors, among others. But this convention allows an easy escape from falling into any of those traps, and ultimately seems like a very safe choice.
The conclusion of the play is the most predictable finale to a gun violence play you could possibly anticipate. I couldn’t tell if the piece was parodying, subverting, or sincerely ending in that way. The inability to come to an understanding resulting in the introduction of absurdism, climaxing in a highly absurd, yet “dramatic” ending, all seemed very wannabe Edward Albee. Regardless, the play ultimately succeeded in serving as a conversation starter on the topic for the audience as they left the theatre — perhaps the greatest test of all.
Additionally, text aside, I admired the production design which was simple, tasteful, and professional in every category but projection design. Every actor really did his or her job, but Leslie O’Carroll, as a strong but grieving grandmother and resilient wife, and Laurence Curry, as a debating Barack Obama, turn out show-stealing performances that truly redeem and reclaim the piece at large.
Out of any of a number of gun violence-related options at the Fringe this year, Waiting for Obama is well acted, and probably the most fully formed, but still problematic. 3/5