Shotgun Players Present Beardo, An Original Songplay About Rasputin

Beardo Poster by R Black

Shotgun Players theater company, of Berkeley CA, kick off their 20th season with Beardo, an original and unorthodox telling of the story of Rasputin. As in years past Shotgun has employed the great R Black to design their posters including the one above for Beardo. The shows runs in Berkeley through April 24, tickets are on sale now.

Rasputin: healer or hedonist or both? Playwright Jason Craig and composer Dave Malloy, who brought you Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, team up with Artistic Director Patrick Dooley to delve into the world of Russia’s infamous bad boy mystic.

This creative team is a renewal of a successful collaboration: Craig & Malloy previously won the prestigious Will Glickman Award for best new play in the SF Bay Area for Beowulf which was produced by Shotgun in 2008 at their Ashby Stage Theater, where Beardo is playing. Beowulf was also a “SongPlay”, the term that Malloy & Craig have coined for their particular style of down-to-earth theater with live music–and in both shows that music is performed live from the stage, intertwined with the action. There are some differences, Beowulf was performed by Banana Bag Bodice, the theater company that Craig has led for more than a decade, which after forming in San Francisco is now based in New York. And the playwright played the title role in that show & Malloy was in the cast as well, neither are on stage in Beardo.

Initial reviews of the show are positive, describing it as exciting, clever and provocative and at times “magic”. There are also warnings for the strict-minded academics that it’s “not history” and notes that there is “coarseness” in the tale of a mad monk and master manipulator: richly salacious and crudely violent.

Grigori Rasputin
image from Wikipedia

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian monk and mystic, born in Siberia in the late 19th Century who claimed supernatural powers and became influential in the court of Tsar Nicholas II. He reportedly seduced Alexandra, the Tsar’s wife, and healed his young son. And legend has it that it took many men, lots of poison, several bullets, and a river to kill Rasputin. A legendary figure indeed, larger than life and disrespectful of death, ripe for a lusty portrayal.

Playing Beardo himself is actor and musician Ashkon Davaran who became internet famous last year with his San Francisco Giants-celebrating YouTube adaptation of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. East Bay Express says his Beardo comes off as “bushy, rumbly-voiced, relentlessly exhibitionistic, and incorrigibly flirtatious.”

Shotgun Players celebrate the completion of their second decade this year, thus officially qualifying as an established small theater company. They’ve mounted productions of everything from Richard III to Ubu Roi, but this year are showcasing new work for their 2011 season. That includes a lead performer from Cirque du Soleil starring in a world premiere and a new adaptation of Phaedra by an Obie Award winning playwright.

photos by: Pak Han

Here’s a glimpse at Beowulf in case you haven’t seen it (or wanna see it again). I wrote about it in 2008 when it was being in Berkeley.