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THEATER REVIEW: As an outstanding one-woman drama, ‘The Shot’ puts civics back in theater

"The Shot" is an exemplar of non-profit theater at its most purposeful. The show is produced by SPARK Theatrical, which is dedicated to connecting plays about social justice and human rights with local non-profit organizations to provide audiences with the opportunity for education and action.

The Shot
GB Solo Fest of Great Barrington Public Theater
Liebowitz Black Box Theater at Bard College at Simon’s Rock
Written by Robin Gerber, directed by Michelle Joyner

The summer Berkshire theater season has already seen a highpoint with the premiere of “The Shot,” an impressive playwriting debut for author Robin Gerber and stellar solo performance by actor Sharon Lawrence (best known for her TV work, like “Grey’s Anatomy”). Lawrence plays Katharine Graham (née Meyer), owner and publisher of the Washington Post, who has been the subject already of many biographies and films. Gerber’s parallax on Graham’s story is specific: the abuse she suffered from her husband, Phil.

Katharine’s plight was complicated already before the abuse: her authoritarian father, who owned the Post, turned the paper over to his son-in-law to own and run; her mother was distant and unloving (at best); and Phil, besides being a raging alcoholic, was bipolar. (He had a famous public breakdown in Phoenix at the podium of a newspaper convention in 1963 when he started railing about JFK’s sex life and stripping off his clothes.) Katharine bore it all, carried on, and soldiered forward to take control of the paper three days after Phil’s suicide by rifle (hence the play’s title).

Remarkably, Gerber sensationalizes none of this; she contextualizes it all. She knows the Washington of which she writes, having served on the staff of Nancy Pelosi, then being a union lobbyist and having written four books about public figures. Gerber’s writing is highly economical; Katharine’s monologue doesn’t flag for a minute in the play’s 80-minute runtime. Most creatively—and to sometimes shocking effect—Gerber crafts parts for Katharine to play Phil.

Lawrence’s performance, shaped closely by the Berkshire director Michelle Joyner, is perfectly formed, timed and nuanced, and, like the writing, never sensationalized. Her recreation of Katharine’s brutal loss of virginity to Phil is a master-class in stage movement. And she perfectly nails the American vaguely patrician accent of old families.

“The Shot” is also an exemplar of non-profit theater at its most purposeful. Developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference in 2017, the show is produced by SPARK Theatrical, the brainchild of producer Laurie Bernhard, which is dedicated to connecting plays about social justice and human rights with local non-profit organizations to provide audiences with the opportunity for education and action. Beside “The Shot” being an outstanding one-woman drama, SPARK puts civics back in theater.

“The Shot,” presented as part of the GB Solo Fest of Great Barrington Public Theatre, had five performances only from June 16 through June 19 all at the Liebowitz Black Box Theater at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.