The short, obvious and wrong answer is that it's the loaded pistol that is secured in a birdcage by a troupe of intense, troubled actors. And like any loaded pistol that features in stage action, it will, eventually be used (cf., "the loaded gun theory").
That piece of hardware is a gun, but it's not The Method Gun except in a very minor, representational way.
The ensemble makes us at home for the show, opening the house early and providing piano music, a compendium of sentimental ballads keyed out carefully by a cast member. "Stardust," "Red Sails in the Sunset, "Alfie," "I Will Wait for You," pieces relatively appropriate for the early 1970s setting of the action, played about as well as I might play them after 30 years away from the keyboard.
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