GOD'S PLOT at Shotgun a Hit

GOD’S PLOT: Written and directed by Mark Jackson. Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berkeley, CA. (510) 841-6500 or www.shotgunplayers.org. Through January 29, 2012

Mark Jackson burst onto the Bay Area theatrical scene in 2003 with his The Death of Meyerhold, produced by the Shotgun Players. Since that time Jackson has become a frequent contributor to the Shotgun Players. His latest contribution is a commissioned work titled God’s Plot, capping Shotgun’s 20th anniversary season of world premiere new work. Attending a production where the name “Mark Jackson” appears on the program, you are assured of seeing a quirky, intelligent, stimulating play replete with directorial physicality. And so it is with God’s Plot that has been extended through the end of January.

This time around Jackson moves from the Russia of Meyerhold to the American colonies, in the Pungoteague settlement on the eastern shores of Virginia. It is a place with strict moral and religious codes where deviation from those codes and being a Quaker or any other religion can lead to the stockade or even to hanging. His inspiration for his latest opus is the first known play to be produced in the “New World.” The title of that play, Ye Bare and Ye Cubb, a political satire, was written in 1665 and no script has survived. Thus Jackson allows his fertile mind to conceive of a play within a play. He populates the landscape with distinctive characters, and brought aboard Daveen DiGiacomo to write original music.

The story revolves around the preparation and performance of Ye Bare and Ye Cubb and the legal fight that ensued from this satire of Charles II of England’s heavy handed control of the colonies. Jackson seems bent on defining and separating art from politics and does so with humor and a touch of drama obviously making an analogy of this early “rebellion” to the present day Occupy USA movement. There is the playwright William Darby (Carl Holvick-Thomas), who has entered the colony with a false name and identity. He is actively romantically pursuing the headstrong Tyral Pore (Juliana Lustenader) while teaching her the “art” of giving public confession. Darby enlists the services of formerly indentured men Phillip Howard (Will Hand) and Cornelius Watkins (Anthony Nemirovsky) to play the Bare and the Cubb.

Darby, Howard and Watkins become known as the “Accomack Three” and are brought to trial after the closeted Quaker Edward Martin (John Mercer) files a complaint against them for performing a licentious play, especially on the Sabbath. When the trial takes place, the Accomack Three put on a sanitized version for the visiting judge and are acquitted.

Julianna Lustenader gives a vivacious magnetic performance as the brave, outspoken Tryal Pore. She alone breaks out in song to the accompaniment of Josh Pollock on banjo and Travis Kindred bass. Carl Holvick-Thomas exudes a bravura persona as Darby the playwright while the humor is shared by Will hand and Kevin Clark. The entire cast is strong and handle Jackson’s physical direction adroitly.

Nina Ball’s atmospheric church like set with 2 rows of benches for the audience on stage right and left accentuates the feeling of being a voyeur on a chapter of history. Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.

Advice: Well worth a visit. It is almost Jackson at his best and will be with eventual rewrite(s).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com