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God's Plot 

When: Thursdays, 7 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 5 p.m. and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 15 2012
Price: $18-$27

Only a playwright like Mark Jackson would have the audacity to dredge up and dramatize the first play ever staged in America -- a colonial satire called YeBarre, Ye Cubbe. And interestingly enough, it's still timely. Turns out the colonists were using a bear and cub to protest an unfair taxation system, which was funneling all the profits from their tobacco bumper crop back to rich aristocrats in England. Sound familiar? Jackson doesn't shy away from political subtexts in his own updated rendition, but what he's mostly interested in is the colonists' fixation with religion. The title of his play, God's Plot, derives from the idea that Puritans thought they were acting out a grand play for God -- thus, they spent their lives performing, confessing, acting penitent, and always watching one another. The conceit is fairly cerebral, but the execution is thoroughly engaging, especially since it's staged as a musical. Daveen Di Giacomo wrote the score; Nina Ball designed the stark, churchy set; Juliana Lustenader and Carl Holvick-Thomas star. Through Jan. 15 at The Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley). $18-$27. ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500

— Rachel Swan

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