Circle of hate?

Ellen Carpenter

This is about the dark side of American culture that no one wants to evaluate,” Speech junior Lee Overtree says. “It’s frightening to me to see school shootings happen, and people blatantly ignore the underlying reasons.

“All they want to do is put metal detectors in schools instead of re-evaluate how we live. It’s not as easy as blaming parents or blaming neighborhoods or blaming drugs or blaming music.”

Overtree pauses.

“It’s hard answering these questions. I want people to make up their own minds. I don’t want what I think to be what people come away thinking.”

Whether people will agree with Overtree is uncertain. But he can count on one thing: After “Second Amendment Club,” the controversial one-man show he’s directing for Wave Productions, has its North American premiere tonight at Shanley Pavilion, it’s going to be impossible for people not to think about the hatred that motivates school shootings.

Written by up-and-coming American playwright Peter Morris, “Second Amendment Club” premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past summer. Overtree, who is an nyou writer, caught a performance, and few months later he had the rights to the play and was corresponding with the author.

Dressed in a black Velvet Underground T-shirt, gray cords and a Bud Light baseball cap, Speech junior Ryan Harrison, who is also an nyou writer, portrays Martin “Teen” Roland, an 18-year-old, “smart-assy little adolescent” hailing from Winnetka, Ill. Teen spends most of his afternoons working on his Web site or his manuscript (“I don’t care if it’s popular. What I’m really trying to do is wake people up a bit.”) or hanging out with his philosophical, gay friend Eddie (“Teen, why’s it always got to be about hate with you?”). Is Teen a racist? Yes. Judgmental? Definitely. Misunderstood? Most likely. A monster? No.

“Yeah, he’s racist and sexist, but he’s also smart and funny,” Harrison says. “People wouldn’t laugh or smile or be moved by it at all if they didn’t find some part of it to be true – I think the play is really just an effort to make this person a real person who reminds you of yourself in some way.”

That’s what is so scary about this show, Overtree says – people can relate to Teen.

“Everyone’s so hesitant to admit that there’s some honesty and validity behind behavior and actions that are so obviously morally problematic,” Overtree says. “The challenge of this show is to admit that you understand.”

But understand what? That Teen is hateful and detestable – everything you don’t want to be? Or that he’s just an insecure high school student who feels utterly alone in the world?

“The (Wave) board was really afraid that people would not realize that this is a commentary and not a reinforcement of these kinds of ideas,” Overtree says. “But the whole ambiguity behind that is why it’s effective.”

After spending two hours in Shanley listening to Teen tell stories about late night IHOP visits, run-ins with his stepmom and then snippets of the brutally vicious fiction in his “masterpiece,” audience members are able to decide for themselves what’s right or wrong. “Second Amendment Club” offers a view behind what’s going on in the county, Overtree says, and allows people to make up their own minds.

“With a show like this, if it’s mediocre, then it’s really, really, really, really offensive,” Harrison says. “But if it’s done really well, then it transcends being offensive.” nyou