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The Coast of Utopia: Voyage 

When: April 4-15 2012
Price: $20-$35

A pet phrase from another character in a nearby production -- John Logan's Red, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre -- seems apropos to this one: "The child must banish the father ... Respect him, but kill him." Indeed, irreverent children abound in this Tom Stoppard epic about the years preceding the Russian Revolution, when members of the younger generation suddenly began reading Kant, pondering "objective reality," and questioning all of their parents' credos. In this play, the first in a triptych staged by Shotgun Players under the tutelage of artistic director Patrick Dooley, that generational rift comes to bear in subtle and profound ways. Old-fashioned matriarch Varvara Bakunin (Zehra Berkman) abuses her serfs while her ostensibly liberal husband Alexander (the wonderful British actor John Mercer) reigns his "500 soul" estate with iron aplomb. In the meantime, their son Michael (Joseph Salazar) defects from artillery school and becomes wholly -- some would say solipsistically -- absorbed in his university studies. Although the play features a lot of volleying of philosophical discourse, some of which can be a bit taxing, it's tense enough to leave you ready for the next chapter. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait a whole year. Through April 15 at the Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley). $20-$30. 510-841-6500 or

— Rachel Swan


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