Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shotgun's "In The Wound" (No, this has nothing to do with firearms)

So, what should you do this weekend if you're jonesing for some outdoor theater that features a big cast and a story that takes place in the ancient world? Don't head to Marin--instead, make your way to John Hinkel Park in Berkeley, where Shotgun Players is producing In the Wound, an invigorating new play based on the Iliad.

I wish I had time to write a longer review, but I think I have to go with some bullet points (no pun intended) about what makes In the Wound well worth a trip to the Berkeley hills:
  • A 31-person cast! Thirty-one! I'm trying to remember the last play I saw that had a cast that big...and drawing a blank. The cast really proves the depth and diversity of Bay Area acting talent, and creates some dazzling moments of theater.
  • Inventively staged fight scenes (stylized, rhythmic fighting with a stick held in each hand) involving most of said 31-person cast. Accompanied by taiko-style drumming and other live percussion and chanting.
  • Now that I no longer have my prejudice against adaptations of mythology, I am amazed at how rich these stories are--how many different ways you can interpret them, and how every adaptation of the Iliad must choose to emphasize something different. In the Wound focuses on how the Greeks' sacrifice of Iphigenia haunts them throughout the Trojan War and requires expiation. I had never considered this aspect of the story so deeply before.
  • In the Wound also has an unusual way of presenting this familiar story, doling out key information in flashbacks. Okay, sometimes it got a little confusing. But, in theater, confusion can sometimes be a useful device to keep the audience paying attention. The In the Wound playbill lists three actresses simply as "Goddess," but it is not until the end of Act 1 that you learn which specific goddesses they are. Greek mythology nerds will be playing Guess the Goddess* all through the first act.
  • The play is set in a timeless milieu that blends classical and contemporary references, encouraging you to reflect on warfare ancient and modern. Furthermore, I saw the play on September 11, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at the front of my mind. In the last decade, there has obviously been a lot of war-themed theater produced in America. Would I have seen a play based on the Iliad on 9/11/10 if the United States had not been attacked on 9/11/01?
  • Odysseus, played by Daniel Bruno, is the main character of In the Wound, and he's intriguingly complex: a family man, a technocrat, a "cruel" man who suggests killing Iphigenia and a thoughtful man who questions his role in the cycle of warfare. Anti-heroes make for good theater, and Odysseus' story isn't done yet. I am thrilled that in December, Shotgun will produce Of the Earth, a new adaptation of the Odyssey, picking up where In the Wound left off!
  • Suggested donation to see this epic spectacular is just $10!
*Not to be confused with Get the Guests.

Image: Iphigenia (Nysbeth Rieman) is carried off to be sacrificed. Photo Credit : Benjamin Privitt.

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