Arts & Events

A Spectacular “Bonnie & Clyde” at Shotgun Players

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday September 12, 2013 - 01:56:00 PM

Mark Jackson has taken a seemingly boring play by Adam Peck and made it spectacular. The highlight of “BONNIE & CLYDE” at SHOTGUN PLAYERS is the incredibly poignant choreography which is a collaboration of Director Jackson, Kimberly Dooley, and the two actors Joe Estlack and Megan Trout. Jon Tracy provides a lighting design of blinding bursts that imply the headlights of a posse or the rat-a-tat of a machine gun or the heavenly light to which Bonnie Parker reassures herself will be the next destination. Matt Stine’s sound design of combining the revving of the engine of a get-away car with a chorus of classical voices starts this dazzling production.  

At the heart of these theatrics is Megan Trout. She resembles Faye Dunaway, who created the cinematic icon of Bonnie, but with a Barbie Doll figure, a Dresden doll face, and long blonde tresses. Lithe and agile, her emotive and expressive dancing of the sometimes elegant, often angular, and always moving choreography is beatific. She rides the edge of danger by climbing the rafters of the barn they are holed up in—designed with immaculate geometry by Robert Broadfoot. Joe Estlack is a good partner and keeps up with her, showing his own dancing talent in muscular form, but it is difficult to disconnect one’s eyes from Trout. The ethereal dancing of this “gun moll,” this “tigress”—as the newspapers of the day portrayed her—is balanced with the most erotic moment I’ve seen on stage in a while when Clyde, upon her urging, brings her to the edge of orgasm.  

I hate to put a “but” in anyone’s face, BUT in between the spectacle and the dancing, the play is bloody boring. It’s not the actors fault, for they have chemistry and put their all into their portrayal and connection, and maintain a believable Appalachian accent. It’s surely not the director’s fault, whose staging is repeatedly the best we’ve seen in the medium-sized Bay area theatres. It seems that the same beat is played repeatedly, though the topics range from her momma not liking him, to views of the afterlife, to whether he killed her pet bird. Adam Peck is a lauded British playwright, but it reminds one of the reiterations of “Waiting for Godot.” It’s full of insightful speculation on what goes on the minds and conversations of two hunted robbers and killers who know they are doomed. In the Dustbowl, in the midst of the worst ecological disaster the world had seen, and in the bleakest years of the Depression, these two Texans seemed to have made a conscious choice to renounce society and visit their venom on it. They raged from as far north as Middleton Ohio and Dexter, Iowa, to Smackover, Arkansas, down through to Huntsville, Texas, and over to Natchitoches, Louisiana, in pursuit of their own egotistic outlaw legend (Parker even wrote her own heroic poetry about their exploits.) But both my partner’s and my eyes glazed until startled alert by the phenomenal extravaganza of lights, sound and dance.  

It is 80 minutes of beauty with award-winner written all of it, and an evening you won’t soon forget. 

(BTW—don’t confuse this with the musical “Bonnie & Clyde” nominated for a Tony in 2012.) 

“Bonnie and Clyde” by Adam Peck 

Directed by Mark Jackson 

At the Ashby Stage opposite Ashby BART 

Through September 29