Simple command: Catch Caught. Now.

Sep 15

Simple command: Catch <i>Caught</i>. Now.

Watching Christopher Chen's new play Caught in its sublime Shotgun Players production is, in a word, disorienting, and that's a good thing. Even clever folk who think they have it all figured out and are hip to what's going on in this mind-twisting play will experience something new here, and it may not be apparent until they leave the theater. Your trust in what is real, what is true (a major theme of the play), will likely have been somewhat shifted. The absurd things that happen to us on a regular basis and all the things we assume are true suddenly seem challenging and connected, as if we've stepped into a Chen play ourselves.

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Shotgun sets a vivacious vintage Mousetrap

Dec 12

Shotgun sets a vivacious vintage <i>Mousetrap</i>

Even though Agatha Christie's most famous, play The Mousetrap, is the longest-running show of any kind in the world (the London production is in its 64th year, with more than 25,000 performances logged) and is performed by school and community theaters on a regular basis, I had never seen it. Nor had I heard one peep about whodunnit, which is really something for such a popular play

So when Berkeley's Shotgun Players announced The Mousetrap as part of its season of women playwrights, I was thrilled at the prospect of at last seeing the play performed by an exciting, enterprising company.

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Shout to the top with Shotgun’s Girls

Jul 11

Shout to the top with Shotgun’s <i>Girls</i>

Would that Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls was something of a dated relic in its details of the horrors, tribulations, indignities and injustices suffered by women through the ages. Things may have changed in the 33 years since the play's London debut in the era of Margaret Thatcher, but they haven't changed enough. The play, now being given a sterling production by Shotgun Players feels deeper and more relevant than ever.

It's fascinating to see Top Girls in such close proximity to a much more recent Churchill play, Love and Information ...

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Just Theater presents a wildly provocative Presentation

Feb 16

Just Theater presents a wildly provocative <i>Presentation</i>

In some ways, the less you know about Just Theater's latest show, the better. Here's what you need to know and then you can read the rest after you've seen it: this is a very modern show in that it deconstructs and wrestles to the ground ideas of traditional theater. It deals with heavy subject matter (genocide) but does so with intelligence, humor and a wildly energetic style that moves well beyond the usual, polite play-audience interaction and more into the visceral punch-in-the-gut territory that leaves you slightly dazed in its aftermath.

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Wilder’s genius shines in Shotgun’s Our Town

Jan 04

Wilder’s genius shines in Shotgun’s <i>Our Town</i>

When it comes to the rituals of the New Year – making and abandoning resolutions, vowing to live more fully and with intention, trying not to let time slip away so quickly by living more fully in the present – the most powerful thing you could do for yourself is head over to the Ashby Stage in Berkeley and see Shotgun Players' excellent production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.

This 1938 masterpiece has long been my favorite American play, and aside from its structural genius, its Expressionistic (and still unmatched) theatricality balanced with genuine emotion, Our Town is the self-help book embedded in our nation's consciousness. I've seen the play dozens of times in straightforward productions (like Shotgun's) and over-produced and over-thought re-imaginings, in musical and film versions, in schools and on the professional stage, and every time I come away with something new. More than any other, I feel Our Town in other works when they succeed in connecting audience to play or when they tap into simple truths that need constant reiteration about what the hell we're even doing on this planet.

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Simply put, Just Theater’s A Maze is just amazing

Feb 17

Simply put, Just Theater’s <i>A Maze</i> is just amazing

There's only so much you can say about Rob Handel's delectably intriguing play A Maze without spoiling the fun. The first thing to know is that the play was first produced in the Bay Area last summer by Just Theater at the Live Oak Theater. That production generated such buzz, both from critics and audience members, that the astute folks at Shotgun Players pricked up their ears and decided to re-mount that production at the Ashby Stage.

The re-mount brings back the original cast of eight under the direction of Molly Aaronson-Gelb, and though I didn't see the show last summer, it's hard to imagine these performances are not sharper and more astute this time out.

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