Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

The Cryptogram — Set in 1959, David Mamet's short 1994 play often alludes elliptically to events long ago of which we never get a clear picture. The secrets come up so often that it's hard not to imagine far darker and more elaborate scenarios than the ones that eventually emerge. Patrick Dooley's production is well paced, taking its time when it needs to, and the cast handles Mamet's rapid-fire fragments deftly, if not quite so naturally that one ceases to be aware of them. Zehra Berkman gives mother Donny great poise and dignity that provide added punch when the cracks begin to show. Gideon Lazarus is an alert presence as ten-year-old John, who can't sleep for obsessing over increasingly large questions. As family friend Del, Kevin Clarke sports nerdy specs, rigid hair, and a kindly yet awkward air. Cryptogram is a curious tidbit of a play that raises many mysteries but keeps them mysterious. (Through June 17 at the Ashby Stage; ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500.)

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