Divorce and adultery were never funnier than they are in Salt Lake Acting Company’s production of “Gun-Shy.”
There are two couples. First is the controlling Evie (Kathryn Atwood) and luckless Carter (Kurt Proctor). Both are recently divorced; Evie’s ex-husband is Duncan (Richard Scott), who is currently seeing the much-younger Caitlin (Carolyn Stone) — and in fact was seeing her even before he divorced Evie, though Evie doesn’t know that.
Through a series of short, comical vignettes, we learn that Carter and Evie want to have a child, but must do so through in-vitro fertilization, due to Carter’s low sperm count. His self-esteem is low, too, as his ex-wife never told him until much later that their baby was not his; furthermore, he is stabbed, shot and fractures his ankle over the course of the play, among other indignities.
We also see that Caitlin enjoyed her relationship with Duncan much better when she was “the other woman.” Now that they’re alone, the excitment is gone.
Evie and Duncan had a son, Jack, and share custody. Trouble is, Evie wants to relocate to the west coast to be with Carter. Now all she has to do is convince Duncan and Caitlin to move there too.
The second act takes place at Duncan’s home, where the four are snowed in and forced to deal with each other. These are people who do not mince words, and the awkwardness is as funny as you’d imagine it to be.
“How can we be good for each other?” Evie asks Carter. “There are so many things wrong with you.”
Or Duncan’s remark to Caitlin, telling her that if they break up, they will NOT remain friends: “When I break up with someone, I want them to die.”
Or this exchange between Evie and Carter. Evie: “Is that an apology.” Carter: “I don’t owe you an apology. But if you think I do, that was it.”
Witty, snarky dialogue like that keeps the play moving, pointing out the absurdities in break-ups, and ending in a way that is comical, yet surprisingly not dark (considering the play’s edginess up to that point).
The style of keeping the scenes short, punctuating them with blackouts and quick set changes, works well — except in a few cases, when comic momentum is just picking up, and suddenly the play, forced to stick to its format, has to end the scene and move on.
All performers are exceptional, with Kathryn Atwood’s Evie really standing out as a woman you don’t mess with, but whom you can’t help falling in love with. Kurt Proctor is also very funny as the much put-upon Carter, especially when he’s saying exactly the wrong thing, as when he first meets Duncan: “So … Evie tells me you’re an alcoholic?”
I am aware that "snarky" is a word used only by newspaper writers and never in actual conversation, but I don't care. I like it.