By Hadassah Penn, Opinions Editor
You’ll notice the smell first: earthy and woodsy, a little damp. You might wonder if you’ve entered some forest clearing and not Schottenstein Theater. And then you’ll notice the stage, delight in the fact that the stage floor is not a floor at all, but a packed bed of earth and moss. There’s even a tiny pond. The effect is transportive. You’ll take it all in, and you’ll realize that YCDS did not come to play.
On the one hand, “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” (written by Mitch Albom) is pretty straightforward. I mean, it’s all there in the title, isn’t it? Well, yes. But also no. Plotwise, “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” is the story of Duane and Duwell Early (Kesser Frankiel and Matthew Shilat, respectively), two Alabama brothers who think they shot an angel, and Sandy (Yaacov Siev), the jaded tabloid journalist who comes to investigate their story. It’s a fast-paced comedy that pokes fun at everything, including its own cast of characters.
At its core, though, the show is more than just a gritty comedy: it’s an exploration of media culture, of racial and regional prejudice, of love and loss and morals and redemption. “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” is comedy first and foremost, so these themes never slow the show’s rollicking momentum. But they’re there, in the quieter scenes and even embedded in some of the punchlines, making for a show that is unexpectedly thoughtful and even emotional.
The balance between comedy and genuine feeling is a delicate one, but the play’s small, talented cast of eight handles it with ease. As the journalist Sandy, Siev’s entertaining bluster masks a wounded soul, and the show’s main emotional arc belongs to him. When asked early in the show, what he believes in, Sandy answers, “mistakes.” He elaborates: “Life is about stumbling from one mistake to another like someone pushed you down the stairs.” Yeah, it’s pretty clear that Sandy has a past. Over the course of the show, this is something that he must confront and eventually make peace with.
Frankiel and Shilat are standouts as Duane and Duwell Early, the eponymous duck-hunters and alleged angel-shooters. With most of the comedic weight upon their shoulders, Frankiel and Shilat bear the burden gracefully, serving up plenty of laughs with a warm, believable side of brotherly affection.
Matthew Silkin’s Lester is sleazy and quietly desperate; Adam Alsberg as Kansas is sweet and endearing; Kyle Harris as Lenny provides some much-needed sanity. As for the Alligator Man (Herschel Siegel)…Well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the Alligator Man.
Featuring angel wings, gas station doughnuts, a tiara, and a whole lot of the song “Sweet Home Alabama,” YCDS’s spring endeavor is exactly as weird as it sounds. It’s a blend of absurdism, classic comedy, and unflinching depth. Unusual? Sure. But absolutely worth your time.