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When: March 22-April 28 2013

If Tom Stoppard's 2002 Coast of Utopia trilogy was overambitious in its narrative, then for a small theater company like Berkeley's Shotgun Players to produce it seems like a twofold folly: It demands thirty-plus actors to commit to three plays, in this case over a three year period. Watching the current installment, Shipwreck (part two), without having seen last year's Voyage (part one), I was frequently lost -- but that did not stop me from enjoying the play immensely. The story follows a tight-knit group of Russian intellectuals, including Michael Bakunin, Ivan Turgenev, and Alexander Herzen, as they bounce around Europe during the revolutionary year of 1848. Stoppard balances the intellectual weight of this subject matter with a madcap humor and witty wordplay accessible to all, also turning his focus to the characters' romantic sides and steamy, sometimes misbegotten sexual liaisons. An unabashedly heady play enlivened by great performances under the direction of Patrick Dooley, Shipwreck is an utter joy.Through April 21 at Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley). 510-841-6500 or

— Alex Bigman


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