Hey! Guess what guys? School shootings suck!
That's the message that Just Another School Shooting tries really, really hard to convey, but falls flat at pretty much every turn.
The play is centred around four high school students who survived an attack in their Hamilton high school. All the high school archetypes are here – the sarcastic goth, the clueless cheerleader, the idealistic hippie and the jock. As act one begins, the four meet with one of their teachers to discuss an appropriate way to memorialize the students and teacher who were killed with each character falling back on stereotypes as they give their opinion. They proselytize to the audience at length invoking literature and current events. The whole scene drips with THE MESSAGE: that victims get lost in the shuffle, completely overshadowing the characters. Though normally a bad thing, given how underdeveloped each is, it doesn’t really matter in the end.
The second act depicts the shooting itself. While far more energized than the first act, it seems purposeless and tacked on. If anything it sensationalizes school shootings, which pretty much negates the Dawson Creek-esque grandstanding of the first half – how many grade 11 students do you know that memorized “The Hollowmen?”
Works of popular art (ie movies, plays, songs) that tackle issues are always cringe worthy. Very rarely does anyone get it right. “Bowling for Columbine” worked because Michael Moore was able to create a wider context for the tragedy and “Elephant” overcame the problem of taking sides by not taking one. Just Another School Shooting doesn’t come near the heights reached by these films. It simply contributes to the very phenomena that it is trying to dispel.
Just Another School Shooting runs again on Monday, September 3 at 3:45 pm at the Neptune's Studio Theatre.