From left, Arianna Ortiz, Christian Telesmar, Brian Graves and Kate Huffman in ‘Friends with Guns’ / Brian M. Cole

Shoot Loaded Questions

As the play opens, Shannon is having a nervous breakdown. Not the kind everyone knows about. This is the special traditional one that only mothers experience when they’re trying to keep their sons from killing each other on the playground.

The scene includes high-pitched screaming. Then, in a sudden silence she encourages them. “You can jump,” she says. Then, ‘NOT ON EACH OTHER!” she screams, and the admonishments begin again.

In “Friends With Guns,” Shannon (Kate Huffman) is saved by a Fairy Godmother in the form of Leah (Arianna Ortiz) who rescues her by making her sit down and have a sensible conversation with a kindred spirit. Within a few minutes they have become fast friends and Leah, who is a touchy-feely kind of woman, has made her new friend comfortable and happy. And Shannon is delighted by Leah’s warm physicality.

Returning home to her husband Josh (Brian Graves), Shannon is effusive in telling him that Leah has invited them for dinner and he is pleased and looking forward to the meeting. And the four-way friendship is secured when Leah’s husband Danny (Christian Telesmar) turns out to be a pleasant and intelligent addition to the group. Moreover, they appear to be of like mind on a number of issues. And so, abetted by abundant wine, they declare themselves “best friends” and make a plan to celebrate the upcoming holiday, Thanksgiving, together.

The mood changes abruptly, however, when Danny mentions that he has a gun collection locked up in his garage. At that point Josh jumps up and cancels not only the plans for Thanksgiving but the friendship as well. Josh, as it turns out, is violently antipathetic to guns and the people who use them.

Some time later the four get together tentatively at Shannon and Josh’s house for drinks, but Josh can’t leave the subject of guns alone and he and Danny spend the evening arguing. Danny, who is African-American, calmly expresses his own experiences as a black American and claims that having a gun gives him a sense of security. But Josh is adamant about the use of guns and the number of people who are killed each year, either by accident or by intention.

Shannon, however, is unwilling to forego her friendship with Leah, and so the two women get together often, and Leah introduces Shannon to a whole new world of adventure. Leah recognizes that Shannon is an extremely fearful woman going through life timidly and with constant trepidation about doing anything that might anger or annoy her husband.

Gradually, however, Leah persuades Shannon to join her yoga class. Later they go to the beach (this story is set in Los Angeles) and Shannon observes her friend wildly enjoying surf-boarding and after a while she decides to try it herself. Gaining confidence as she gets up on the board the first time she tries it, she is exuberant.

And so, inevitably, she goes to a shooting range with Leah. Still panicked at the very thought of a gun, she nevertheless lets Leah teach her how to load it and eventually how to shoot it. Having worked up the courage to actually shoot the gun, she is so elated that she doesn’t stop until she has gotten off five more shots and emptied the weapon.

Inevitably, Josh learns from Danny (who assumed that Josh knew) that Shannon had learned how to shoot. Josh becomes so infuriated that when Shannon returns home they have an argument so fierce that he winds up hurting her physically.

“Why are you so mad at me?” she asks him. “You controlled me and I was scared all the time about everything. But now I’ve conquered my fears.”

“You’ve been brainwashed,” Josh replies. “You’re obsessed with Leah.”

“No, I’ve started thinking for myself,” Shannon answers.

And so the argument continues until Shannon, preparing to leave, drops her purse and a gun falls out. And, as the play ends, you are left wondering if one of them shoots the other. And if so, who does what to whom?

“Friends With Guns” is having its World Premiere at The Road on Magnolia. It was written by Stephanie Allison Walker and its four excellent actors were successfully directed by Randee Trabitz.

The Road on Magnolia is located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood and the show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm through May 5th. The Sunday performances are Pay-What-You-Can.

Tickets can be ordered by calling 818-761-8838, or online at www.roadtheatre.org.

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