East Bay Express, June 14, 1996
C. L.

The second in the company's season of first works is an atypical Mamet. Those looking for the epithet-studded male underworld of later classics like Glengarry Glen Ross or American Buffalo may not be satisfied with the bickering writers of Squirrels. What links Squirrels to the Mamet we all know and love is its focus on language, and the verbal acrobatics of high and low diction. In Squirrels, however, the quirks of contemporary speech provide both form and content. The play is the story of Arthur, a deluded hack who has been working on the same paragraph for fifteen years, and Edmond, the fledgling writer he has hired as a secretary-cum-ego booster. Together they form a satire of bad writing everywhere, with Arthur's flamboyant redundancy clashing with Edmond's mediocre melodrama. The play is a ninety-minute powerhouse of tongue twisters and status games - hilarious and thought-provoking. The Shotgun Players do a masterful job, especially Kevin Karrick's bombastic Arthur and Judy Phillips' no-bullshit cleaning woman. Patrick Dooley's direction is tight and insightful, managing to keep both the pace high and the nuances clear. All in all, fantastic. As Arthur says, can you beat that with a large stick? I think not.

The Contra Costa Times , June 24, 1996
Joe Heim

Anyone who has ever sat down to write a great work of fiction knows just how frustrating it can be to find those elusive, perfect words. If you want to console yourself on your lack of facility with language, the Shotgun Players' desperately funny production of David Mamet's Squirrels at the dark and cozy La Val's Subterranean Theatre in Berkeley just might do the trick.

Directed by Patrick Dooley, the play pitilessly portrays the life of Arthur (Kevin Karrick), a middle-aged, egotistical writer caught in the relentless grip of writer's block. Not your garden-variety, cliché-ridden writer's block, either. Arthur, it seems, has spent the past 15 years working on the first line of a story involving a man's encounter with a squirrel.

He sums up his efforts at one point, saying, 'Man sees squirrel. Squirrel bites man. Man kills squirrel. From nothing, to nothing.' There you have it.

It hardly seems enough on which to build an 80-minute performance. After all, how much can you really say about a squirrel? Not surprisingly, Mamet has found plenty.

In order to free himself from his decade-and-a-half rut, Arthur hires a young assistant, Edmond (Moukie Mehr), who after many futile attempts to find meaning and purpose in the aforementioned critter, becomes equally mired in Arthur's creative abyss. The back-and-forth between Edmond and Arthur is painfully amusing as each outdoes the other in developing increasingly ridiculous scenarios for the story.

Mamet has often been accused of being a misogynist, but perhaps the strongest character in Squirrels is the cleaning woman (Judy Phillips), who is also an aspiring writer. She is fond of Arthur, but has long since tired of his pretensions and knows just how to put him in his place.

Early in the play, it is her stories that seem the most promising and alive; however, they, too, ultimately bog down in banality. All of the characters try desperately to write about life, but seem to have given up living it.

Arthur, Edmond and the cleaning woman grip tenaciously to the past, and to each other, rather than moving forward. Preparing for the future is seemingly not in their plans.

Although this is Mamet's first play, there is already evidence of the clever wording and edgy humor for which he has become famous. And while the circular and at times confounding dialogue occasionally borders on being repetitive, Mamet's verbal gymnastics fill it with enough twists and turns that it always remains engaging.

The play would not be nearly as captivating and fun without such an excellent cast. Phillips, Karrick and Mehr are superb. Breathing life and humor into Mamet's staccato bursts of dialogue, they deftly capture the script's irony and deadpan absurdity.

You might think that the only thing worse than having writer's block would be to spend an evening watching others similarly afflicted. With this production, it's an entirely enjoyable event.