Shotgun takes a look at The Forest War.
Ever ornery, the Shotgun Players decided a while back to
be the company that didn't do Christmas shows, and began their own
tradition of offering mayhem and murder, surrealism and daring to
holiday audiences desperate for something without sugarplums.
Three years ago, they took a chance on a complex three-hour world
premiere of a play about a Russian theater director nobody had ever
heard of. And while the previews looked a little grim, the play
so caught the fancy of audiences that Shotgun faced something they'd
never seen before: lines of people so desperate for tickets they'd
buy them off scalpers. Company artistic director Patrick Dooley
figures he could have sold six hundred seats a night, if the Julia
Morgan building could have held that many people.
That show was The Death of Meyerhold, written and directed
by Art Street Theatre founder Mark Jackson. Besides winning tremendous
critical and audience praise, it established Jackson as the director
actors would claw their eyes out to work with. They haven't had
the chance until recently, though, because right after Meyerhold,
Jackson took off to Berlin to watch actors throw themselves down
stairs and navigate stages full of broken glass in toe shoes. But
he's back to direct another world premiere of his own work, this
time a historical-ish epic about an imagined Asian kingdom where
the new ruler must make a difficult decision about whether to continue
a draining conflict with the neighbors. Written during a residency
at the Djerassi artists’ colony, The Forest War is
an oblique reference to modern politics, but with samurai swords,
forbidden love, and Kevin Clarke (Meyerhold's deliciously neurotic
Shostakovich, the one who crawled all over the scaffolding) as the
Besides a large cast, Shotgun's also breaking the bank on the design,
spending as much on the costumes for this one show as they usually
budget for a whole season. The Forest War is going to be
big and lavish by Shotgun standards, and dramatic by anyone's; the
word "Kurosawa" is being batted around by the people involved.
Catch it before Jackson gets too big for us and takes off for New
York or Europe and the scalpers there.