Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Shelley (Cathleen Riddley) a Catholic nun, has run a soup kitchen for the homeless for almost twenty years. She's wearing thin in her thoughts of religion. She now says her prayers before a microwave timer in the kitchen in an attempt to mechanically restore her faith. However, her faith in humankind comes when young and vibrant Emma (Megan Trout) arrives to volunteer her services. Emma says she is suffering from cancer and she needs to lose something in herself.
Shelley gets a boost of energy and a renewed pride in doing good. She is joined by Oscar (Caleb Cabrera), a Dominican American who is also a volunteer, and Frog (Kevin Clarke), a fascinating homeless man who is suffering from schizophrenia and will sell you a joke for a quarter.
Oscar has a girlfriend he loves with a passion, but Emma's charms seem to be pulling him from her. It turns out that Emma has more than a secret or two that are revealed in the second act in this two hour and 10 minute play with intermission.
Grand Concourse starts out as a character study, but the meat of the play is in the second act where the playwright takes the story simultaneously darker and brighter in its disclosures concerning human nature.
Director Joanie McBride has assembled four wonderfully talented actors to present this emotional and sociological drama. Cathleen Riddley is outstanding as Shelley. Her calm performance as the nun is pitch perfect and her soliloquy at the end of the production is superb. Megan Trout is compelling and elusive as Emma, an provocative character, and she plays it to the hilt.
Caleb Cabrera give a terrific performance and his Dominican accent is perfect. He adds a comical influence to the emotional drama. Kevin Clarke also steals the show every time he is on stage. His precise inconsequential thoughts on mankind's role as marauders are magnificent.
Set designer Nina Ball provides a full-scale community kitchen set on the intimate stage. You could actually cook on this set. Joanie McBride's direction is fast paced and she gets the best out of the cast.
Combined with the playwright's knack for dialogue and the skillfulness of the cast and crew, Shotgun Players delivers one of the summer's best productions.
Grand Concourse plays through August 21, 2016, on The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave, Berkeley. The repertory season continues through January 2017 Christopher Chen's Caught opening on September 1. Village Bike currently plays on Fridays, Hamlet on Thursdays. Tickets may be obtained by calling 510-841-6500 or online at www.shotgunplayers.org.