Tag Archives: Shotgun Players

Review: Deceit and deception in Shotgun Players’ ‘Caught’

Jomar Tagatac/Lin Bo, 
Elissa Beth Stebbins/Joyce/Curator in Shotgun Players' production of Caught. Photo: Pak Han
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Shotgun Players’ production of local playwright Christopher Chen’s stimulating, creative and complex work, Caught, confounded and ultimately conquered the Ashby Stage audience in its opening night performance. The mesmerizing Caught concerns truth and lies in their infinite varieties, and the place of truth in art, journalism and relationships. Since 2014, Caught has been produced in Philadelphia, Chicago, London, Seattle and New York to glowing reviews.

Chen’s initial concept of Caught stems from the incident involving Mike Daisey, who had reported on NPR’s This American Life about his encounters at an Apple factory in China, based on his nonfiction theatrical monologue, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. After the program aired, subsequent fact-checking determined that some of Daisey’s experiences had been falsified. This American Life host Ira Glass gave an on-air apology and retraction.

The substance of Daisey’s reporting about conditions in the Apple factory was accurate and was verified, but Daisey’s re-telling of aspects of his visit to China was false. So, yes, he publicized the horrendous working conditions but, in doing so, he fabricated his own involvement in the report. … Continue reading »

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Lies, love, sacrifice in Shotgun Players’ ‘Grand Concourse’

Cathleen Riddley as Shelley in Grand Concourse. Photo: Pak Han
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Why do people volunteer at soup kitchens? Is it so that they may selflessly serve others? Is it to make themselves feel worthy? Satisfy religious commitments? Or is it to forget their own problems? These questions and themes of friendship and falseness are presented in the stimulating and entertaining Grand Concourse, well directed by Shotgun’s Joanie McBrien. Playwright Heidi Schreck is a two-time Obie Award-winning actress and author of There Are No More Big Secrets, Creature, and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.

Fresh from its New York and Chicago runs, Grand Concourse is set in the kitchen area of a soup kitchen (and soup is the only meal on the menu) in a Bronx Catholic church basement, run by the habit-less nun Shelley (great work by Cathleen Riddley). Shelley arrives early each morning so that she can scrub the dining room after the night janitors have finished cleaning it. Shelley is having trouble concentrating on her prayers, however, and has taken to lengthening her prayers by timing them with the microwave timer. Watching her look into the microwave as she prays is charming, as well as spiritual — in a 21st-century kind of way.

Shelley’s calm, caring and conscientious demeanor seems too good to be true, and it turns out that it is. She is suffering from the burnout common to the self-sacrificing. We see her question whether her work is actually helpful and learn that her reasons for joining her religious order more closely resemble an act of teenage rebellion than true religious conviction. … Continue reading »

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Funny and fresh: Shotgun Players’ ‘The Village Bike’

IN PRODUCTION


Elissa Stebbins as Becky, Nick Medina as John in The Village Bike by the Shotgun Players. Photo: Pak han
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Count on the fearless Shotgun Players to produce The Village Bike, a contemporary British play by Penelope Skinner about a pregnant woman who isn’t getting enough sex. This amusing, slightly rueful two-act play, though superficially about sexual incompatibility in a marriage, also gives us a glimpse into modern marriage and contemporary English life.

Recent additions to their trendy village, newly pregnant Becky (Elissa Stebbins), an English teacher, and her husband, John (Nick Medina), in advertising, bought an old house with faulty “sweaty” plumbing. The analogy of stuffed-up groaning pipes hints at the more serious problems that permeate their household.

John has lost all interest in sex, afraid it hurt the baby, says he. He prefers to spend his time lecturing his wife about how to have the perfect baby and how to buy organic meat. Becky, however is much more interested in sex, and if her husband is not willing, why not masturbate to porn flicks, or scout the neighborhood for willing male companionship? … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Hand2M1
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SHOTGUN’S BLAST FESTIVAL Berkeley’s Shotgun Players have launched a new festival, BLAST, with the goal of “exploding the limits of possibility in theater.” The intention is for BLAST to be an annual celebration of difference — a month-long festival of new ideas and visions. “BLAST aims to explode the boundaries of the stage with performances by local and national theater artists. We think life is dynamic, changing, ephemeral, strange, and beautiful. Theater should be too,” says the theater. On Saturday and Sunday you can see My Mind is Like an Open Meadow, by Portland’s Hand2Mouth ensemble. A mixture of lighting, pre-recorded voice, music, dance and scenery, the piece is based on one year’s worth of recordings Erin Leddy made of her fascinating grandmother, actress Sarah Braveman (watch the trailer). BLAST runs through March 6 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Free parking in the Ashby BART parking. Tickets: $15 advance/$20 door. Blast Pack tickets available for multiple performances. See full program at Shotgun Players’ website. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players’ ‘The Mousetrap’ surprises and delights

Trish Mulholland as Mrs. Boyle, Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Paravincini, Nick Medina as Christopher Wren, Karen Offereins as Miss Casewell, Adam Magill as Detective Sergeant Trotter, and David Sinaiko as Major Metcalf. Photo: Pak Han
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Since 1952, London audiences have been frightened, surprised and delighted by Dame Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and Shotgun Player’s audience will be no exception. Under the talented direction of Shotgun’s Artistic Director, Patrick Dooley, with an outstanding cast and an elaborate stage set, this quintessential country house murder mystery seems as fresh, engaging and mysterious as it did 63 years ago.

Giles Ralston (Mick Mize) and Mollie Ralston (Megan Trout), recently married after a brief courtship, inaugurate their guest house, Monkswell Manor, during a severe snowstorm. We meet their four expected guests, the outwardly charming but inwardly neurotic, Christopher Wren (Nick Medina), a young wanna-be architect whose parents had a bad sense of humor, the supercilious and cantankerous Mrs. Boyle (Trish Mulholland), the blustery retired Major Metcalf (David Sinaiko) and the morose Miss Sara Casewell (Karen Offereins). The innkeepers do not know anything about their guests, except that, presumably, they each have seven guineas per week to pay for their room and board.

In the midst of the dreadful storm, an unexpected guest arrives. Mr. Paravichini (Alex Rodriguez), seeking shelter for the night, explains that he had to abandon his car in the now impassable roads. Luckily, the Ralstons have a small room left for him. But who really is this unusual man wearing makeup and speaking with a strange accent?  … Continue reading »

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‘The Rover’: A 17th-century play with 21st-century morals

Justin Gillman as Blunt, Dan Saski as Don Pedro, Jeremy Kahn* as Willmore, and Alex Lydon as Belvile.
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One thing about Shotgun Players — they’re always up for trying unusual and challenging plays. Sometimes their attempts result in exceptional evenings, especially for a small local theater company. However, at other times their reach exceeds their grasp. The Rover, unfortunately in the latter group, is a production that only sometimes works, despite the best of intentions.

Written by Aphra Behn (1640? – 1689), a prolific British female playwright, poet, and novelist from the Restoration Period (1660 – 1710), The Rover is basically a silly comedy of manners, but it is also exceptional since the female characters are outspoken in expressing their “modern” sexual desires. This was radically avant-garde during the Restoration Period and Director M. Graham Smith does his best work while emphasizing this aspect of the play, which still charms.Continue reading »

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Myth turned upside down in Shotgun’s creative ‘Eurydice’

Megan Trout as Eurydice and Kenny Toll as Orpheus in Euridyce by Shotgun Players. Photo: Pak Han
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In the oft-told Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the musician Orpheus follows his bride, Eurydice to the underworld to lead her back to life, but he is forbidden to turn his head and look at her. Nevertheless, because he fears that she may not be following him, he glances back and loses his love for all eternity. Contemporary playwright Sarah Ruhl has creatively turned the myth upside down in Shotgun Players’ winning Eurydice.

Ruhl’s version is from the point of view of a present-day Eurydice (first-rate Megan Trout) and introduces a new character, Eurydice’s deceased father, wonderfully captured by Bay Area luminary James Carpenter.

Combining the mythic with reality, Eurydice begins with a wonderfully sensual pas de deux skillfully choreographed by director Erika Chong Shuch, with Orpheus (nicely acted by Kenny Toll) and Eurydice frolicking at the beach. Eurydice is the intellectual of the pair; Orpheus, an idealistic composer, thinks only of music.  … Continue reading »

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‘Top Girls’ by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players is top theater

Top Girls
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Shotgun Players has scored a bit hit with Caryl Churchill’s 1982 drama, Top Girls.

The Obie award-winning, superbly written Top Girls takes place in London and environs at the beginning of Margaret Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister (1979-1990), when her Conservative Party emphasized individual success and achievement, as opposed to the protection of all segments of society through labor unions and government social programs. Although it’s a play about women, Top Girls is essentially asking all of us to think about the nature of the society we favor, for men and women. … Continue reading »

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Review: The Shotgun Players’ ‘Heart Shaped Nebula’

Hugo Carbajal as Miqueo and Marilet Martinez as Dalila in the Shotgun Players' production of Heart Shaped Nebula. Photo: Pak Han
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Astronomy and mysticism don’t normally mix, but they do, and with varying degrees of success, in Marisela Treviño Orta’s 80-minute one-act play, Heart Shaped Nebula, ably directed by Desdemona Chiang. The play chronicles the love story of Dalila and Miqueo, she, an astronomy and Greek mythology fanatic, he, an artist. These star-crossed lovers meet in high school in their small Texas town, a town not unlike Orta’s small hometown in Texas.

As the play opens, we find Miqueo (accomplished actor Hugo E. Carbajal) in a cheap motel near Tonopah, Nevada, a town which apparently has the darkest night skies in the U.S. He plans to witness a massive meteor shower, which will help free him from grief over Dalila, whom he hasn’t seen in 14 years. Hiding in his room is a thieving stranger, 13-year-old Amara (impressive Gisela Feied), who seems to know too much about Miqueo to explain logically. Amara provides the impetus for Miqueo to recount his relationship with Dalila. We see through his hesitant flashbacks the tenderness and devotion of the couple as they grow up together. … Continue reading »

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Avant-garde Antigonick by the Shotgun Players at the Ashby Stage

Parker Murphy as Nick in "Antigonick." Photo by Pak Han/Shotgun Players
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We are fortunate to have a company in Berkeley like Shotgun Players— always willing to take risks, to present large and small productions, classics, new material, or new takes on classics, as in Antigonick.

The beautiful art book Antigonick, on which Shotgun’s production is based, is a new translation of the Sophocles play, Antigone, by Canadian world-class poet, classicist and MacArthur “genius” fellowship winner, Anne Carson, and her collaborator Robert Currie. Published in 2012, the book contains text blocks hand-inked on the page, with translucent vellum pages and stunning drawings by Bianca Stone that overlay the text. Shotgun has some copies for sale.

Directors Mark Jackson and Hope Mohr turn the 2,500-year-old play into an ultra-modern visual, dance and intellectual experiment that combines Carson’s adaptation, Mohr’s choreography skills, and Jackson’s tested directorial talent. … Continue reading »

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With new studio space, Shotgun aims for bigger footprint

scenery shop
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players launched their new studios at an event on March 2 to celebrate what they hope will become a center for creativity and a hub for emerging performing arts groups in Berkeley.

The former home of Serendipity Books has been transfigured into a theatre company’s dream: two studios large enough for rehearsals and classes, along with costume and scenery shops, and a café/green room/future theatre library. (Read more about the history of this space and the full Shotgun Players schedule.)

In the new Shotgun Studios, located at 1201 University Ave., actors can now begin rehearsing on the actual set that will appear on the Ashby stage during performances. Accommodations for sound and a grid for lights are also in the works for Studio A, the larger of the two studios. Studio B will be lined with mirrors for use by choreographers during rehearsal, and for dance and movement classes during daytime non-rehearsal hours. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players to create studio at old Serendipity Books

Shotgun Players are transforming the old Serendipity Books on University Avenue into a rehearsal space. Photo: Google Images
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players has purchased the building on University Avenue that once housed Serendipity Books and will turn it into a new rehearsal and shop space.

A large gift from an anonymous donor allowed Shotgun to buy the 5,200-square foot building at 1201 University (at San Pablo) in March 2014. The Board of Directors and other donors have contributed $1.6 million to renovate the space. Shotgun will now look to the broader community to raise an additional $175,000.

“I am humbled and awed by the outpouring of support from the Shotguns community,” Patrick Dooley, the theater’s artistic director, said in a press release. “The generosity of our supporters is truly inspiring. After years of being nomadic, Shotgun realized the secret to longevity is not just in great theatre, but also in long term investments like real estate.” … Continue reading »

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‘Our Town’ by the Shotgun Players in Berkeley is a winner

Sam Jackson in 'Our Town' by the Shotgun Players. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs
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In Our Town, three-time Pulitzer prize-winning author Thornton Wilder created a profound and intimate exploration into American life and death. And, although it was written over 76 years ago, the Shotgun Players’ version of the drama remains fresh and vibrant — still an important piece of American theater. Congratulations to the Shotgun Players and Director Susannah Martin for this winning production.

The Stage Manager (excellent Madeline H. D. Brown) serves as narrator and commentator. She explains that the first act opens in 1901 and follows the lives of the residents of tiny Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, where neighbors know each other, doors are never locked and horses are still the mode of transportation. We meet the Webb and the Gibbs families, particularly Emily Webb and George Gibbs. Both El Beh, as Emily, and Josh Schell, as George, are first-rate. … Continue reading »

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