Oksana (Sarah Moser) and Paul (Harold Pierce). Photo: Jay Yamada
Oksana (Sarah Moser) and Paul (Harold Pierce) in A Maze, a Just Theater production presented by Shotgun Players. Photo: Jay Yamada

Shotgun’s mission is to present provocative and relevant theatre at an affordable price. It does so with its own productions, as well as by inviting other theater companies to perform on the Ashby Stage.

A Maze is a creative and complex two-act play written by Rob Handel which debuted in New York in 2011, and was staged by Just Theater last summer. The play impressed Shotgun, which is delighted to remount it and present it to the larger audience it deserves.

Directed by Molly Aaronson-Gelb, the play is comprised of three separate plot lines that, in the first act, appear disconnected and unrelated. We imagine that all these stories must have a thematic connection, and they do. But the way they intersect in the second act is unexpected, amusing and a bit troubling.

The King (Lasse Christiansen), The Queen (Janis DeLucia) and Galgalim (Clive Worsley) . Photo credit: Jay Yamada
The King (Lasse Christiansen), The Queen (Janis DeLucia) and Galgalim (Clive Worsley) in A Maze. Photo: Jay Yamada

In the first storyline, Jessica (Frannie Morrison), a 17- year old girl, has escaped from eight years of being a kidnapping victim. Back at home, she appears unaffected by her captivity as she prepares for her exclusive interview with an Oprah-like TV celebrity. Surprisingly, Jessica appears to be officiously absorbed with her publicity campaign, to the exclusion of all else.

Just as we become interested in Jessica’s story, the play shifts to a second and seemingly unrelated narrative. This one is about Paul (winning Harold Pierce), a member of the highly successful rock group, the Pathetic Fallacy, who is being pushed into rehab by the controlling Oksana (capable Sarah Moser), a fellow rock band member.

While at the Desert Palms rehab center, Paul befriends the peculiar, dysfunctional Beeson (excellent Clive Worsley), a graphic novelist, who for many years has been fixated on his super-elaborate multivolume story. Beeson confides that has yet not begun the plot of the story, despite his several volumes of exhibits, maps and diagrams. Oddly, Beeson claims that he is not the writer of the story. Rather, it is being channeled through him; he is merely the “deliveryman.”

The third segment is a curious fairytale in which a robust king (nicely played by Lasse Christiansen), on hearing that his queen (Janis DeLuca) is carrying “his heir,” constructs a complex and ever-enlarging defensive maze to protect the baby. The labyrinth, designed by a half-man/half-dog, becomes impossible to navigate. No one will be able to get into or out of the castle. Although the king says that he is protecting his family, he seems to be imprisoning them at the same time.

“There are two kinds of mazes: the kind where you try to get through and out the other side, and the kind where you try to get to the center,” says one character. The theme of escaping into or out of a maze and surviving it lies just under the surface of A Maze. Even the creative stage set depicts building fascia filled with mazes and abstract patterns.

Some connected creative questions are also raised, albeit, a bit heavy-handedly. Are artists entitled to ignore societal ethics? Does their talent give them a free pass to damage the lives of others?

A Maze has authenticity, flair, humor, pathos and surprises, which combine to create a provocative evening of theater.

Just Theater’s A Maze is playing on the Ashby Stage through March 9, 2014. Visit Shotgun’s website for information and tickets.

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Emily S. Mendel

Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although an East Bay resident for most of her life), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...