COURTESY JESSICA PALOPOLISteven Hess and Rosie Hallett have fun in Shotgun Players’ entertaining production “Harry Thaw Hates Everybody

COURTESY JESSICA PALOPOLISteven Hess and Rosie Hallett have fun in Shotgun Players’ entertaining production “Harry Thaw Hates Everybody

Shotgun Players’ ‘Harry Thaw’ hits high notes

Despite the title, wealthy New Yorker Harry Thaw did not necessarily hate everybody – but he certainly hated the equally high-rolling Manhattan architect Stanford White, a rival for the affections of Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit.

In fact, Thaw shot White dead as White was watching a play.

The true turn-of-the-century murder was described in novelist E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime,” in which Evelyn is a minor character. In Los Angeles playwright Laural Meade’s buoyant “Harry Thaw Hates Everybody,” Evelyn is the main character.

And in Shotgun Players’ wildly imaginative and polished production, directed by M. Graham Smith, the re-examined case, presented from four different perspectives, is funny and engaging.

It’s also metatheatrical, occasionally anachronistic, involves some carefully calibrated audience interaction and has a spiffy, Gilded Age set (by Maya Linke).

Evelyn, her mother, White and Thaw appear in the afterlife. Each one, eager to be perceived as innocent, presents a self-serving view of the way things happened.

Evelyn, played with blithe charm by Rosie Hallett, introduces the action and has the last word.

White (a wonderfully smug and jovial Steven Hess) is first up with the story of how he met mother and daughter, both newly arrived, poverty-stricken, in New York. Avaricious and narcissistic, he presents his case in the form of a vaudeville revue, starting with a musical ode to himself. (The many delightful songs are from the era; for some, original melodies were added.)

Mother (a strong, nuanced portrayal by Carla Pantoja) chooses a “living newspaper” approach, with headlines projected on a screen (video design by Micah Steiglitz). By now, Evelyn is White’s mistress, and wooed by the apparently deranged Thaw. Mom eagerly accepts money and gifts from both men.

Thaw (played by Keith Pinto at a one-note, too feverishly maniacal pitch throughout) offers a mock trial to prove his innocence, complete with absurdly hilarious interpretive dance and off-key song.

Evelyn’s ambiguous viewpoint plays out in a surreal scenario, like a drug-induced dream. Did she truly love White, the sugar daddy who deflowered her at 16? Why did she marry the abusive Thaw? Was she in some way complicit in White’s murder? We’re having too much fun to care.

As a two silent servants, Will Dao and Michelle Drexler are terrific, as is music director Dolores Duran-Cefalu, pounding out ragtime at the piano.

Meade’s witty play highlights the disparity between rich and poor in a way that resonates today. But mostly it’s just sheer, beautifully staged entertainment.

REVIEW

Harry Thaw Hates Everybody

Presented by Shotgun Players

Where: Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. most Sundays; closes Nov. 23

Tickets: $20 to $30

Contact: (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org

artsHarry Thaw Hates EverybodyLaural MeadeShotgun Players

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

City College of San Francisco Board member Alan Wong (Courtesy photo)
CCSF board member tests positive for COVID-19 after National Guard deployment

Alan Wong spent eight days in Sacramento protecting State Capitol before Inauguration Day

Giants slugger Barry Bonds smiles as he makes a joke about McCovey Cove as the San Francisco Giants paid tribute to legend Willie McCovey at AT&T Park on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Ex-Giants star Barry Bonds again falls short of Hall of Fame

After striking out yet again in his bid to join Major League… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

Most Read