Our critics weigh in on local theater

Cabaret. John Kander and Fred Ebb's 1966 musical hit possesses the two main ingredients of a best-seller: sex and violence. Cabaret follows the adventures of Clifford Bradshaw, a young American writer who pitches up penniless in Weimar Berlin and quickly succumbs to the topsy-turvy hedonism of the local nightlife, not to mention the wiles of the ditsy British expat and cabaret performer Sally Bowles. While many productions tend to emphasize sex over violence, creating an aphrodisiac of gyrating Fräuleins in falling bra straps, Shotgun Players' take, directed by Russell Blackwood (of Hypnodrome fame) and featuring a live five-piece band, adds blood to the collection of bodily juices flowing onstage. The aggression builds to a crescendo through insidious attention to detail and the liberal use of Brechtian alienation techniques. Sometimes the references to fear, such as the pianist's Führer-like bark of "Eins, zwei, drei, vier!" at the start of each song, are so subtle they barely register. Elsewhere, Blackwood's terror tactics are bolder. For example, when Nazi roughnecks beat up Bradshaw (Cassidy Brown), it's no surprise to see Clive Worsley's sinister Emcee rouging his cheeks with the victim's blood. If life is a cabaret, old chum, then it's modeled on the Hypnodrome. Through Jan. 29 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK), Berkeley. Tickets are $15-30; call (510) 841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org.

Also Playing

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Beach Blanket Babylon Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Beyond Therapy Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Big City Improv Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Burn This New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Contours: A Shakespeare Project La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.

Emperor Norton: A New Musical Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

GayProv Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

Improv Revolution Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

"Intrigue in the Mansion: Murder Mystery Dinner" The Archbishop's Mansion, 1000 Fulton (at Steiner), 563-7872.

Lestat Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

Love, Chaos & Dinner Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

Monday Night Improv Jam Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 368-9909.

Monday Night Marsh The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Mystery Plays SF Playhouse, 536 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

Negligent Son Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.

Not a Genuine Black Man The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Pirates of Penzance Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third St.), 978-2787.

The Seven Deadly Sins The Crucible, 1260 Seventh St. (at Union), Oakland, 510-444-0919.

Sexual Perversity in Chicago Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

Women on the Way Festival Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), 826-4401.

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