Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Salt Plays: In the Wound

Shotgun Players
The Salt Plays: In the Wound
written & directed by Jon Tracy

September 17, 2010 3pm
John Hinkel Park, Berkeley

Aleph Ayin / Achilles
Daniel Bruno / Odysseus
Dave Garrett / Menaleus
Alex Hersler / Hektor
Yannai Kashtan / Telemachus
Roy Landaverde / Patroclus
Charisse Loriaux / Nurse 2
Dave Maier / Ajax
Lexie Papedo / Penelope
Harold Pierce / Paris
Nesbyth Rieman / Iphigenia
Emily Rosenthal / Nurse 3
John Thomas / Palamedes, Priam
Michael Torres / Agamemnon
Elena Wright / Nurse 1

I was pessimistic about the weather on Saturday afternoon, but it turned out to be pleasant for this outdoor show. The audience sits on terraces of stone & compacted dirt. People bring picnic lunches, & I was grateful for the bottle of Bracchetto that my theater companion contributed to ours. Food is also available for purchase.

The play grabs bits & pieces from the mythology of the Trojan War, reset to World War II. My interest was held by the constantly unfolding stage pictures, which are striking, harsh & pitiless. I liked the 3 Red Cross nurses who start the show by climbing up guard towers to play taiko drums. There are many rough fight scenes, in which people are thrown to the concrete floor or dragged around. 6 large wheeled flats are used to create locations, clear the stage & reveal tableaux, most dramatically at the end.

However, I could not make sense of the text. Familiarity with the Greek sources did not seem to help. Those 3 Red Cross nurses turn out to be Aphrodite, Athena & Hera. Odysseus is a kind of secretary of defense who keeps holding up a Moleskine notebook like it's Mao's Little Red Book. My theater companion & I were both baffled by the mysterious red briefcases chained to some characters' wrists, perhaps because we did not know until afterward that "horse" is drug slang for heroin.

Despite the outdoor location, the actors are audible without amplification. I was particularly impressed with Yannai Kashtan who plays the boy Telemachus & who does everything with complete conviction. The show has 30 actors, the largest cast ever for Shotgun Players. A raffle was held during the intermission. Prizes were a poster & a ticket to part 2, which opens in December.

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