Photo:Cheshire Isaacs.


The art of atrocity.

Shotgun Players
Ashby Stage, Berkeley, California
Written by Sarah Kane
Directed by Jon Tracy
Starring Robert Parsons, Adrienne Walters, Joe Estlack
Through October 22, 2017

Those who think that the primary purpose of theatre is to provide a light and entertaining evening out should be aware that playwright Sarah Kane’s one-act drama, “Blasted” is anything but that. Rather, it is an intense, painful experience, full of violent horrific scenes that won’t be easily forgotten, even for those who would prefer to scorch the images from their minds.

“Blasted” opens in a modern hotel room in Leeds, England to which Ian (excellent Robert Parsons), a racist, misogynist, homophobic, alcoholic, journalist in failing health has invited the younger Cate (terrific Adrienne Kaori Walters), hoping to resume the sexual relationship that he had previously ended. It is painful to observe their interactions as we watch Ian bully, malign and demean the outwardly meek but inwardly strong Cate. Their cat and mouse game ends with Cate succumbing to Ian’s bed, but by the end of the 100-minute play, she emerges as the stronger of the two.

Their sexual battle is merely a precursor to the devastating brutal all-out war that then overtakes their lives. After bombs explode, and the hotel room disintegrates, a soldier in full combat gear enters the hotel room (outstanding Joe Estlack). What follows are grotesque acts of atrocity and inhumanity including male rape, sucking out eyeballs and eating a dead baby. One wonders how playwright Kane could conceive of such evil, but in fact, she didn’t. The violence in “Blasted” was taken from actual accounts of the atrocities in the Serbo-Croatian genocide that occurred less than 30 years ago. This fact is the most terrifying and heinous aspect of “Blasted.”

When “Blasted” was first produced in London in 1995, it received unanimously negative reviews. Since then, with more revivals, many critics have changed their minds and are now praising Kane’s poetry and talent. The drama is talked about as a vital contribution to modern theatre. Kane’s 1999 suicide at the age of 28, in a macabre way, seems to have helped resurrect her reputation.

With a tightly-written, searing and dramatic text, outstanding visceral acting and taut and unshakeable direction by Jon Tracy, this production is grotesque, haunting and unforgettable.

Shotgun Players warns audiences that “Blasted” contains heavy use of graphic language, sexual violence, loud noises, strobe lights and disturbing imagery. Audience members must be 18 or older to attend.

This review first appeared on

By Emily S. Mendel
© Emily S. Mendel 2017 All Rights Reserved

San Francisco ,
Emily S. Mendel, a writer and photographer, has been a regular contributor to since 2006, where she reviews theater, art, film, television and destinations. Ending her 30-year law practice has given Ms. Mendel the time to indulge in her love of travel and the arts, and to serve as the theater reviewer for