THE GREAT DIVIDE
THE GREAT DIVIDE Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle The Shotgun Players of Berkeley are presently performing THE GREAT DIVIDE. Brilliantly directed by Mina Morita, the play uses Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE as a template. Adam Chanzit has moved the setting from a Norwegian town just downstream from the fetid mill town of Molletal, to a sintered town in Colorado which has the fortune, or misfortune, to be perched on top of a flatulent vein of Marcellus shale. Although the geography or geology may be a little off, Chanzit has correctly depicted the dubious benefits of extracting natural gas from shale via fracturing. As human nature would have it, the indigent townspeople of this Colorado hamlet are slavering over the possibility of real jobs, royalty checks, cheap energy, bigger houses, glitzier cars, better cuts of meat and cable service with 500 channels. A decent shot at the American Dream has everyone poised for moral compromise, spring loaded to the environment be damned position and willing to sacrifice the common good for the sake of the common good. While the local economy has never been so robust, it is a pity the same cannot be said for its withering denizens; the townspeople and, more sadly, the innocent goats are stricken by all the ancillary side effects of drinking shots of benzene with their well water. Hovstad, an earnest whelp of a journalist (duplicitously played Ryan Tasker) is taking notes for his Pulitzer Prize entry, while Doctor Katherine Stockmann is taking water samples and offering bottled water and evacuation as an antidote to the malaise. Just as the town is beginning to smell the benzene tainted lucre, Doctor Stockmann (played righteously by Heather Robison) succeeds in temporarily driving off the drilling and fracking company; the people are not happy, you can almost hear their plaintive yelps, “Shane, Come Back” to the spoilers. Needless to say, Doctor Stockman does not become a viable candidate for the town council or mayor, nor is she elected to the state assembly; if the town had a Shirley Jackson style Lottery Doctor Stockman would have won it hands down. The Shotgun Players are the obvious choice to spot light this timely issue of environment and ground water versus cheap energy prices and avarice; the Shotgun Players occupy the moral high ground; they are possibly the greenest and most environmentally friendly theater in the country; their photovoltaic array not only powers their Klieg Lights, it produces a surplus of electrons that are force fed to PG & E. Sure this is an election year, but if you are thinking of political or social activism, you might want to witness what happens to the Stockmann family when Citizen Katherine sticks her head into the powder keg. THE GREAT DIVIDE will not only entertain you, it will challenge you intellectually and might even get you to trade the 12 mpg SUV for a bicycle and swap those archaic incandescent bulbs in for LEDs. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Don’t miss THE GREAT DIVIDE; it runs now through June 24; call the box office at 510-841-6500 or surf over to www.shotgunplayers.org.