The Wichita Community Theatre is taking audiences to a backwater swamp and on a winding, uproarious adventure in their latest production.
“Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” follows the haphazard entanglement that ensues when two bumbling Alabama brothers who have never bagged a duck think they’ve accidentally shot an angel. The contemporary play by Mitch Albom explores relevant social themes while delivering laughs. It opens Wednesday night.
“The story uncovers some real issues,” said show director Larry Hartley. “The play itself is a little confrontational, yet comfortable at the same time. It deals with race, North vs. South, regret of the past, personal priorities, and focusing on what is important. It’s audacious, but it’s very funny.”
Hartley said that this will be the first time the story has been staged in Wichita, and he thinks audiences will identify with its heartfelt humor. It’s the first play from Albom not based on a book, as well as his first comedy. It debuted in 2004 at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Mich., and became their highest grossing play. It went on to have success in Detroit and other cities across the U.S.
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At the story’s opening, guilt-ridden brothers Duane and Duwell believe that they have shot an angel. Duane, the brainier of the two, schemes to make money off of their mistake while averting responsibility.
Sandy, a burned-out tabloid journalist from New York, arrives with his reluctant photographer to investigate the matter, though their cynicism and disbelief are evident. Sandy believes the ordeal to be a farce and is only perusing the story to sell papers. His crazed boss, a fiery gas station attendant, a ghost and a half-man/half-alligator creature quickly become enmeshed in the jumbled quest for truth.
“It moves along from scene to scene seamlessly,” Hartley said. “That’s one of the beautiful parts about the writing. The scenes don’t stop and start. They will literally repeat the last line from one scene at the top of the next. There is no scene change. Actors slip on and off stage. That makes the show move along quickly.”
Hartley said that the set will be dominated by a huge tree with some pieces placed in to suggest an office, a small store, and a car during points of the story. He called it a cross between black-box theatre and realism.
“The play weaves in a love story, rivalry between siblings, the tawdriness of the media, race relations, and cultural stereotypes,” Hartley said. “Those themes are relevant. The play is made relevant because they are universal. We deal with these themes every day.”
The cast is a mix of newcomers and veterans to the Wichita Community Theatre stage. Newcomer Dustin Little stars in the role of Sandy. Andrew Johnson and John Dalton-White play brothers Duane and Duwell. Darian Leatherman is photographer Lenny, while Logan Buehler plays Sandy’s full-of-himself boss, Lester. Hannah Bowen plays gas station attendant Kansas, Greg Dalton-White is the Gator-Man Creature, and Leanne Renae is the ghostly, unnamed woman from Sandy’s past. Diane Tinker Hurst rounds out the cast by doubling in the roles of a bank officer as well as the voice that plays a god-like therapeutic presence throughout the production.
“Mitch does this story in a very amusing manner,” said Hartley. “The humor will stand out to audiences. … It’s a comedy with a surprise at the conclusion that ends well. This is a redemptive story. People will leave feeling good.”