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Every time Sandy goes down south he “breaks out in righteousness.”

In addition to being one of the funniest lines from Billings Studio Theatre’s production “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel,” the comment has some kick to it.

Here’s a guy who sold his soul to support his gambling habit and he’s worried about other people’s morals? I identify with Sandy (Vincent Raye) because he started out as a newspaper man, but traded loyalty and scruples for money and adventure up north. He’s mad at himself for his lame choices so he turns his disappointment into cynicism. Raye captures that coldness with a smirk and a callousness that would impress Wolf Blitzer.

I worked with a fellow who once had to choose between working for cheap at a legit newspaper and tripling his salary at a raunchy tabloid where fiction is passed off as news. I was proud of my profession when he went with his ethics.

Throughout most of “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel,” the audience is laughing so hard at the goofy redneck brothers, Duane (Ray Dale) and Duwell (Jeff Boschee), they likely aren’t dwelling on Sandy’s flaws. The two brothers are as bad at pronunciation as they are at shooting game. They believe a tabloid is a tablet you ingest and that CNN is a branch of the government. That’s good news on both fronts. The wildlife is safe and the audience gets a good laugh at the “idget’s” expense.

Duwell is so frustrated with his poor marksmanship, he whines, “I just want to kill something before I die.”

Like Sandy, who feels he’s too smart for Southerners, Duane feels superior to Duwell and explains that with Duwell, “Wheels are turning, but the hamster’s dead, if you know what I mean.”

Veteran sports writer and newspaper columnist Mitch Albom, known for his best-selling memoir “Tuesdays with Morrie,” wrote the script for “Duck Hunter.” Even though some of his other books, including “Tuesdays with Morrie,” have been turned into plays, “Duck Hunter” is the only straight-to-script work Albom has written. He has a lot of fun at the expense of the Southern redneck, but also builds in wise Southerners, like the teenage convenience store clerk Kansas (MacKenzie DuBeau).

The show is a terrific look at the way media attention can alter real-life events. When Duane begins to comprehend that his story about accidentally shooting down an angel over an Alabama swamp is worth money, his standards dissolve and he decides to sell it to the highest bidder.

“Being doomed is a hell of a story,” Duane said. “I would like to greet the devil in a double-wide.”

I agree with director Bobbi Hawk, who said there is a moral to the story, but the message doesn’t clobber you over the head.

“‘Duck Hunter Shoots Angel’ is either a story of second chances, a somewhat twisted study in reincarnation, or just plain silly fun. You decide,” Hawk said.

Contact Jaci Webb at 657-1359 or jwebb@billingsgazette.com

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