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.