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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Bonnie & Clyde and Christine Ebersole

Also see Patrick's review of Chapter Two


A Compelling Production of Adam Peck's Bonnie & Clyde


Joe Estlack and Megan Trout
Photo by Pak Han
It's not the Arthur Penn film that stared Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, but Shotgun director Mark Jackson's intimate look at the blood-flecked relationship of two of the most famous criminals who ever lived, now playing at Ashby Stage. The couple robbed banks, murdered at least seventeen people, and died as they lived—by the gun.

The play takes place at the end of Bonnie & Clyde's crime spree. They are holed up together in a small barn in Louisiana, left to contemplate what they have done and make last minute amends for their actions. All they have is a bag of clothes, a sawed-off shotgun, and a bottle of bootleg whisky.

Clyde Barrow (Joe Estlack) is haunted by their past while Bonnie (Megan Trout) has a childlike innocence in her attitude about what they have done. She reads about their crimes in a newspaper and chuckles with glee, since she firmly believes she will be a beloved starlet on the stage like Roxie Hart. This image protects her from seeing the truth of what her life has become. Clyde, on the other hand, denies their inevitable fate. His mind is on desperate plans to get even with the business powers that have pilfered his American dream.

Soliloquies punctuate the action throughout the play, adding a poignant element of humor and playful banter and reminding the audience that, underneath the joking and laughter, there lurks a set of serious issues that need to be addressed—the repercussions of the pair's actions are just around the corner.

Joe Estlack and Megan Trout do an excellent job of creating characters that are slightly waiflike and starry-eyed while retaining their raw edges. The chemistry between the two is believable. Both are extremely captivating with their Texas accents. Even when Bonnie is wailing at Clyde for not wanting to be buried beside her, you can sense her detachment from reality as she turns death into a mere domestic argument. Joe Estlack's lyrical soliloquies punctuate the play nicely, foreshadowing their inevitable fate.

The Shotgun Players production of Bonnie and Clyde is a well thought-out, excellently executed piece of theatre under the guiding hand of Mark Jackson. The 80-minute drama also includes wonderful choreography by Kimberly Dooley. A highlight of the production is a dream sequence of the two dancing to a recording of Fred Astaire singing "Cheek to Cheek." Loud buzzes sound and bright lights shine through the broad slats of Robert Broadfoot's oddly unspoiled barn set. Micah Stieglitz has devised excellent graphic archival projections which are displayed against the barn set.

Bonnie & Clyde plays through September 29th at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Berkeley. For tickets call 510-841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org Coming up next is Linda McLean Strangers, Babies opening on October 15 and running through November 17.


The Incomparable Christine Ebersole at Feinstein's at Hotel Nikko

Broadway diva and two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole wowed her devoted fans recently at Feinstein's at the Nikko in San Francisco. She was ably assisted by musical director John Oddo on piano, Don Shelton on reeds, and Pat Klobas on bass. This Broadway star is a gifted dramatic actress and comedienne, and those skills make her cabaret shows better than most. She is elegant and displays a breezy and positive approach in every song she sings.

Ebersole, who is currently starring in the hit TBS comedy series "Sullivan and Sons," offered an evening of classic standards and Broadway songs. Opening with little fanfare, she started scat singing to the upbeat "Go Down Moses," segueing into belting out the Gershwins' "Strike Up the Band." She got every nuance, including the sorrow in Les Clark and Matt Dennis' "Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World." She also managed to add some stories about her husband and personal life.

She demonstrated remarkable versatility in a great blues arrangement of Irving Berlin's "Get Thee Behind Me Satan" and a wicked take-off of Noöl Coward's "What's Going to Happen to the Tots?" before segueing into a sublime reading of Harburg and Arlen's "Right as The Rain" and the Gershwins' "I Love You Porgy." She gave a poignant version of the famous 1930s depression song "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" and got the fans clapping to the rousing gospel song "I'll Fly Away." The session ended with Ebersole cupping her hands over her mouth to replicate a jazzy trumpet sound and then belting out Rodgers and Hart's "Johnny One Note."

Of course, her fans would not let her go, so she came back to sing two encores: imitating the legendary Sophie Tucker on "Max From the Income Tax" and a lovely rendition of Burke and Johnston's "Pennies from Heaven."

Christine Ebersole appeared at the Feinstein's at the Nikko 222 Mason Street, San Francisco on September 5th, 6th and 7th. For a complete line up of upcoming events go to www.hotelnikkosf.com/feinsteins or call 855-636-4556


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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