Tag Archives: Shotgun Players

‘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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Shotgun’s ‘Harry Thaw Hates Everybody’ is sparkling

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The entertaining, creative and comical Harry Thaw Hates Everybody by Shotgun Players at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley is based on a scandal that is still intriguing after more than 100 years.

Playwright Laurel Meade, winner of the L.A. Drama Critics Award for Best Writing for an earlier version of the play, placed this compelling triangle of human behavior in a fresh new light. Using the technique made famous in the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon, the tale is told from the perspective of each of the four main participants. But instead of a sobering re-telling of a tragedy, the production regales us with music, dance, naughtiness and a slide show of newspaper headlines and turn-of-the-century pornography. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players’ ‘Twelfth Night’ misses the mark

Orsino searches for the right melody to describe his desire for  Olivia.

Featuring (L to R): Rebecca Pingree, Ben Euphrat, Cory Sands. Photo: Pak Han/Shotgun
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Shotgun Players struggles through its version of “Twelfth Night” as it populates the production with mediocre music, uneven and occasionally painful acting, stagey technique and free wine for the audience, rather than concentrate on the heart, guts and language of the play, which is about love and its suffering.

“Twelfth Night” is one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which a female character disguises herself as a man. The aristocratic Viola (Rebecca Pingree) lands on the Illyrian coast after being shipwrecked in a terrible storm. Alone, and assuming that her twin brother Sebastian has been drowned, Viola dresses up as a man named Cesario and finds work in the household of Duke Orsino (Ben Euphrat). Although Orsino loves the Lady Olivia (Ari Rampy), she is mourning her dead brother and refuses any and all advances from the noble Orsino, as well as from the silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Nick Medina), a friend of Lady Olivia’s drunken uncle, the loud Sir Toby Belch (Billy Raphael). … Continue reading »

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There ain’t no one Berkeley: ‘Daylighting’ a city on stage

Berkeley's Free Speech Movement started 50 years ago. A new Shotgun Players production xxxxx. Photo: Courtesy of Bancroft Library
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How do you write a play about Berkeley? First, which Berkeley are we talking about: Berkeley in the heyday of the Free Speech Movement and student strikes, or the way things were back in the day of trolley tracks and a bustling Hink’s department store? What about the Berkeley of today, with neighborhoods in transition, a vibrant theater scene, and a second Berkeley Bowl?

For playwright Dan Wolf and director Rebecca Novick — both relative newcomers to Berkeley — the answer to these questions propelled them into a year and a half of collecting stories about the city from as many groups as they could gather together in “story circles.”

As part of their desire to make their play about Berkeley a community process, they spoke with students from Berkeley High, a group of day laborers, the founders of CIL, long-time residents in many different neighborhoods, the Cal swim team, and a group of folks who meet daily at a bait and tackle shop on San Pablo — and began to form an idea that eventually became “Daylighting,” a newly commissioned play that opens in a Shotgun Players production on May 30.  … Continue reading »

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Not to be missed: Shotgun Players’ ‘The Coast of Utopia’

The Coast of Utopia: Salvage
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Sir Tom Stoppard’s famous, award-winning trilogy, The Coast of Utopia (2002), centers on a group of Russian philosophers, radicals, anarchists and socialists in pre-revolutionary Russia (1833-1866). If the subject matter doesn’t sound enthralling, rest assured that one of Stoppard’s gifts is exploring arcane subject matters and infusing them with excitement, humanity and heart.

Shotgun Players produced the first two fascinating productions, Voyage and Shipwreck in 2012 and 2013. This year, the final and best, Salvage, as well as the first two plays, can be seen in repertory now at the Ashby Stage. Led by Artistic Director Patrick Dooley, Shotgun has taken a very complex series of plays, with difficult language, numerous characters and copious scene changes, and succeeded in presenting intriguing and beguiling dramas … all with fine acting.  … Continue reading »

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‘A Maze’ in Berkeley: A provocative evening of theater

Oksana (Sarah Moser) and Paul (Harold Pierce). Photo: Jay Yamada
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Shotgun’s mission is to present provocative and relevant theatre at an affordable price. It does so with its own productions, as well as by inviting other theater companies to perform on the Ashby Stage.

A Maze is a creative and complex two-act play written by Rob Handel which debuted in New York in 2011, and was staged by Just Theater last summer. The play impressed Shotgun, which is delighted to remount it and present it to the larger audience it deserves.

Directed by Molly Aaronson-Gelb, the play is comprised of three separate plot lines that, in the first act, appear disconnected and unrelated. We imagine that all these stories must have a thematic connection, and they do. But the way they intersect in the second act is unexpected, amusing and a bit troubling. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun’s ‘By And By’ wrestles with cloning, relationships

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A growing number of playwrights grapple with the ethical issues of science and technology. Tom Stoppard was a pioneer, and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen was a memorable exploration of nuclear physics and the responsibilities of scientists. In the Bay Area, Stanford’s Carl Djerassi, one of the inventors of the Pill, has a minor sideline as a playwright writing about science.

By And By, which debuted at Shotgun Players last week, wrestles with the dilemmas posed by full human cloning. But the compelling twist in Lauren Gunderson’s play is that it focuses on human emotions in a very recognizable world, rather than confecting some science fiction fantasy of the material.  … Continue reading »

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Shotgun’s Shipwreck: You say you want a revolution?

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Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, the second of the Coast of Utopia trilogy, makes clear where his allegiance lies among the Russian intelligentsia. It isn’t the compelling Michael Bakunin, the focus of Voyage, the first of the plays, or critic Vissarion Belinsky or youthful author Ivan Turgenev. No, it’s the thoughtful, upright Alexander Herzen who urges moderation, rejects grand dreams, and focuses on achievable goals.  … Continue reading »

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

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The Coast of Utopia: ShipwreckMARATHON THEATER  Shotgun Players, “the biggest little theater company in town,” secured the rights last year to put on Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia trilogy. This season Shotgun is producing Part Two: Shipwreck, along with some repeat performances of Part One: Voyage.” In Voyage, we met our young heroes in the first blushes of revolutionary thought and love. Now, with Shipwreck, we find them in their 30s. “The optimism of their early years has hit the rocks of marital infidelity, social anarchy, and a tsar who has no intention of stepping down. The stakes go up dramatically in this next great duel between the heart and mind.” The plays are directed by Shotgun’s artistic director Patrick Dooley. Through April 21 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Avenue. … Continue reading »

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For Valentine’s Day: Berkeley love blooms at the theater

Patrick and Kimberly Dooley on their wedding day.
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By Elisabeth Woody

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Berkeleyside is celebrating love in by looking at how one Berkeley couple met and fell in love.

Kimberly and Patrick Dooley are prominent figures in the Berkeley theater world — she is a director at Berkeley Playhouse and he is the founding artistic director at Shotgun Players. Their life and love are grounded in Berkeley. They shared their first kiss on the benches of what was then Ozzie’s Soda Fountain in the Elmwood. Patrick wooed Kimberly with cherry cornbread scones from the Cheese Board, and their favorite dates include long walks around their neighborhood and up in the Berkeley hills.

Kimberly and Patrick first met in 2000, when both were working at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts on College Avenue. Each had come to Berkeley in their early 20s in search of a vibrant, tight-knit theater community. After brief stints in larger theater cities (she in L.A., he in New York), they quickly realized that Berkeley was the perfect fit. … Continue reading »

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Arts

Darkly humorous “Assassins” provokes in election season

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It’s eerie watching Shotgun Player’s new production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins in the middle of a presidential race. You can’t help but wonder about the daily rallies with President Obama in front of masses of supporters. Assassins suggests that the discontented who might seek a single “historic” act are just too common in our society.

Assassins is a darkly humorous musical revue, with each of nine assassins taking their turn on stage. The father of them all is John Wilkes Booth (played by Galen Murphy-Hoffman), who opens the evening with his assassination of Lincoln offstage. Most of the other assassins and would-be assassins are far less well known. Charles Guiteau, played in a wonderful comic performance by Steven Hess, assassinated James Garfield in 1881 (then again, how many people remember Garfield, either?). Leon Czolgosz (played by a morose Dan Saski), who assassinated William McKinley in 1901, is another trivia answer, rather than a historic figure.  … Continue reading »

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Events

Truffaldino Says No: Zany mishmash of desire and defiance

Ally Johnson as Isabella in the Shotgun Players/Playground premiere of Truffaldino Says No. Photo: Jessica Palopoli
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Truffaldino Says No, presented by Shotgun Players in a joint production with PlayGround, a Berkeley Rep playwriting laboratory, barrels into the story of a young man’s expedition with terrific velocity and grand intentions. Combining aspects of Commedia dell’Arte and 1980’s sitcom sensibilities, the journey from Venice to Venice Beach is rife with clever humor and reaches for depth beyond the laughter.

Playwright Ken Slattery’s Truffaldino (William Thomas Hodgson) is a son, predestined to become a carbon copy of his father. Arlecchino, (Stephen Buescher), slaves in the Old World of servants under masters and expects his child will follow suit. Unfortunately, as a younger generation is want to do, Truffaldino has ideas of his own.

Hilariously and surreptitiously called all manner of variations on his name (Truffalpipi, Truffaldingdong, Truffal–whatever) by the woman he both serves and loves, a fluffy, vacuous Isabella (Ally Johnson), the young rebel participates in his doomed-to-follow fate until announcing, expectedly, “No!” … Continue reading »

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The Great Divide: Fighting Big Energy, now and then

The Great Divide
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The process of Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking” — extracting gas or petroleum from rock layers by boring deeply underground and pumping water, sand and other chemicals into fissures — is making news headlines. It also forms the vortex of ‘The Great Divide” an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” produced by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. Below, Lou Fancher reviews the play, and Adam Tolbert interviews the play’s playwright, Adam Chanzit.

Playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Dr. Thomas Stockmann was an “enemy of the people”, a medical man who in 1882 discovered tainted water in his small Norwegian village’s popular medicinal baths. Transposed to the 21st century by playwright Adam Chanzit, a female doctor, hellbent on revealing water contamination in her Colorado town, bears the same mantle in Shotgun Players’ production of Chanzit’s “The Great Divide”, where truth’s bony finger is pointed at the energy industry.

Doctor Katherine Stockmann, played with impressive command by Heather Robison, is a medical vigilante. Prone to protect and protest in support of disadvantaged populations across the globe, she has mired herself and her family in trouble. Escape comes in the form of a fragile homecoming. … Continue reading »

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