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West County Times, Sep. 26, 2003

Stark, Spartan 'Water Principle' captivates and provokes

--Jack Tucker


"THE WATER Principle," Shotgun Players' current production at the Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St., Berkeley, is a puzzling, dark and disturbing allegory by East Coast playwright Eliza Anderson.

On the surface, this is a spare production of three characters in an almost empty playing space engaged in repetitious, guarded talk that gradually discloses its stark purpose: Feeding hunger.

Hard-bitten Addie (Kate Sheehan) hungers for protection for her plot of land. Weed (John Thomas), a cagey con man, hungers to possess the land and Addie. Skimmer (Ian Petroni), a drifter, hungers for food and a foothold in a desolate world.
But "on the surface" doesn't explain the richness of this curious production. First, there is the strong, underlying web of unity provided by the three excellent actors and the controlled intensity of their performances.

The mood, the empty "feeling" of the piece, is enhanced by Evren Odcikin's set design -- a free-standing door, a splattered white backdrop, a steel drum containing water, a kitchen table and chair, small tree branches suspended above.

The visual effect is heightened by Chris Paulina's sound design -- from the screech of wild creatures to the burbling of running water. Lighting designer Robert Ted Anderson embellishes the simple set with telling shadows and pools of light.

John Warren's direction is tight and controlled, rising from the quietness of the opening monologue by Addie to the doorstep of violence, held in stunning tableau at the end.

So what is "The Water Principle?" Playwright Anderson doesn't provide a pat answer. What I do know uneasily is that I will remember Addie, Weed and Skimmer and their strange, entwined lives for quite a while.

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