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Oh Mama, it's badly in need of 'Gun' control

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A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER AND A GUN Dodger Stages, 340 W. 50th St. (212) 239-6200.

SO many times does a gun go off during "A Mother, A Daughter and A Gun" that, by the time this seemingly endless play is over, theatergoers may be tempted to rush the stage, seize the weapon and use it either on themselves or the hapless performers.

The latter include such pros as Olympia Dukakis, Veanne Cox and George S. Irving, and their desperation is palpable.

This purported comedy was written more than a decade ago by Barra Grant - daughter of Bess Myerson, the former Miss America, one-time New York City official and erstwhile U.S. Senate candidate (for the record, both mother and daughter deny the play is autobiographical). Directed by British veteran film and television director Jonathan Lynn, "A Mother, A Daughter and A Gun" is but the latest in a long line of off-Broadway misfires this season.

Cox plays Jess, a woman whose marital trouble involving an unfaithful husband prompts her to pick up the weapon in question, which is used more often than in your typical action film.

Indeed, so many shots are fired that the audience - including one woman who shouted "Oh, my God" every time it went off - seemed positively rattled.

Or maybe it was by the play itself, a clunker so deadly humorless it seems a perverse joke. Taking place over the course of a long evening, it depicts the emotional turmoil suffered by Jess, and the complete inability of her mother, Beatrice (Dukakis), who has marital difficulties of her own, to help her. Other characters include a procession of wacky party guests and Jess' father (Irving), who at one point falls victim to the profusion of stray gunfire.

While the play might have been a provocative dark comedy about female rage and the emotional complexities of mother/daughter relationships, its messages are lost amidst the one-note characterizations, inane dialogue and witless slapstick.

Considering the amount of gunfire that occurs during the performance, don't be surprised if a SWAT team bursts in. In this case, however, it's the job of the critics to restore order.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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