by Kristen Nevarez Schweizer
March 14, 2022
Phil Johnson hid his face in his hands as he said, “No one wants to see dramas right now. Look outside, it’s dark, we want to laugh. But comedy and drama are much the same. You feel and think and get to a new place through both of them. So my evil plan is you came in for a very funny comedy, but in the end, we have to think deeply too.”
Johnson stars in and produces gUnTOPIA, a biting satire with performances beginning Thursday, March 16, and running until April 2, 2023. He plays a sitcom-perfect father within a locked-and-loaded nuclear family. As a founding partner of The Roustabouts Theatre Company, Johnson understands the gravity of choosing this timely production and carries the off-stage role with somber responsibility – despite the show’s irreverent humor.
“I will be in the lobby after every performance to talk to people. We will have post-show talks. We have student matinee productions. I want everyone who sees this show to be feeling and thinking and then talking and then doing.” The theatre will bring voices from all sides of the issue – gun rights advocates as well as gun violence prevention activists – to post-show Q&As in order to dive into our nation’s rising firearm-related death toll. Johnson emphasized, “But first comes the feelings.”
Audiences can bank on feelings anytime they spend an evening with Roustabouts Theatre Company. Long story short: this company chooses fantastic scripts. Their critically-acclaimed IRON, in the summer of 2022, swept the 2023 San Diego Critic’s Circle Awards with Best Performance (Rosina Reynolds), Best Featured Performance (Kate Rose Reynolds), and a nomination for director Jacole Kitchen.
The Reynolds women return in tandem as co-directors of gUnTOPIA. “Kate is a monster in the best definition. She came through Yale, and she is so detailed, she’ll push – she pushes me farther than I’ve ever been pushed before, and I love it. And Rosina is Rosina, of course. IRON was critically acclaimed, but we had small houses, even though it was so very good, and I think it’s because…well, it’s what we all live all day, and that’s hard then at night, we want a break. So gUnTOPIA will make us laugh and laugh and laugh and then squirm. And then, we are ready to think.”
Johnson presses into what comes after the laughing, squirming, and thinking. As a leader in the San Diego Theatre Alliance, he takes part in conversations about San Diego’s performing arts community. “It feels like we’re moving through the murk, having important EDI [equality, diversity, and inclusion] hiring conversations and post-pandemic programming conversations. But it’s hopeful, and we do what we can do. There are a lot of good choices being made in the city right now. We’re proud to be frank and hopeful with gUnTOPIA.”
THE ROUSTABOUTS THEATRE CO PRESENTS
A WORLD PREMIERE DARK COMEDY
by Will Cooper
Performances begin Thursday, March 16, 2023
Running through Sunday, April 2, 2023
Directed by Rosina Reynolds & Kate Rose Reynolds
[This show did not officially open in 2020 due to COVID]