REVIEW: "A Shot Rang Out" — South Coast Repertory

Updated: Nov 16

Richard Greenberg’s “A Shot Rang Out” Blows Audiences Away!


Despite the well-intended streaming efforts during this past year and a half, cultural recovery has been in short supply and enforced isolation has led to a numbing lethargy in the arts. Now, Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory and an award-winning New York-based playwright, blessed with a deft choreography of words, have collaborated to finally supply local audiences with a fresh, new re-start.


SCR’s animated Artistic Director David Ivers takes the stage himself in “A Shot Rang Out,” an enthralling, timely and often-funny glimpse at the present — a play written especially for him by one of SCR’s most celebrated legacy playwrights — Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle Award winner, Oppenheimer Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Richard Greenberg ("Take Me Out,” “Three Days of Rain"). This world premiere production is directed by former Artistic Director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Tony Taccone, and runs through November 6th on the Segerstrom Stage.


“A Shot Rang Out” will be the first time since March, 2020, that people will experience an indoor performance in Orange County’s Tony Award-winning theater.


Photo by ​Jordan Kubat.

The motif of the play is surprisingly simple. After a long period of detachment and solitude, an actor returns to the stage, alone and shaken. This is his story — his moment of reckoning — about what led to his seclusion. Along the winding journey, he draws inspiration from movies and theatre and 20th century pop culture, and reflects on how emerging from isolation brings its own surprises, including the renewal of hope and discoveries that unravel the mysteries of love. In the simplest of outlines, it’s about a character named John who ruminates on how the recent isolation has changed him, and recounts significant events in his life during the interregnum.


John spends much of the play’s first half meticulously analyzing two less-than-perfect movies from decades ago, “Any Wednesday” (1966) and “The Seven Year Itch” (1955). Even as John dismisses them as lightweight entertainments not worthy of serious analysis, he dives into a passionate discourse that could be a graduate seminar: the wonders of sumptuous color in older movies, the twisted morality of each film’s story, the vastly underrated acting talents of Marilyn Monroe. In particular, he’s fascinated with the assumptions they reveal about marriage.


Photo by ​Jenny Graham

“The Seven Year Itch,” Billy Wilder’s classic film that has been immortalized for the image of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate with her white dress billowing in all directions, places an erotic dream before a man whose married life has settled into slumberous routine.

The message that domesticated passion inevitably grows stale is one of the lessons that John draws from the movie. But the more important one, embodied in the sensual relief Marilyn finds in the cooling subway gust, is that if our pleasures inevitably fade, so too do our sweltering problems.


“Any Wednesday,” the screen version of Muriel Resnik’s play about a woman (Jane Fonda) in love with a married lout, suggests to John a different moral about marital unions. Could a husband and wife who have discovered the unflattering truth about their relationship find a way to regenerate the old magic?


Photo by ​Jenny Graham

That’s the possibility that David Ivers’ John wants to impart to us, an image of ambiguous hope, symbolized as a bouquet of helium-filled balloons, just as they did in the movie. John’s own marital story, however, isn’t the stuff of romantic comedy at all. Indeed, it might be more in keeping with the darker works of August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett, all of whom he drolly promises to steer clear of.


Mr. Greenberg, known for his subversively humorous depictions of middle-class American life, was a constant presence in the Broadway theater after his first works were produced in the 1980s. This new solo work marks the 13th of his plays to be produced at SCR, a remarkable 10 of which (including this one) have been world premieres.


Photo by ​Jenny Graham

Prior to his appointment as Artistic Director at SCR, David Ivers served as artistic director for Arizona Theater Company, and has directed more than 40 plays and productions at many of the nation’s leading regional theatres, including the Guthrie Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and South Coast Repertory (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” 2015; “She Loves Me,” 2020). His magnetic solo performance here was at once mesmerizing and epigrammatic.


Photo by ​Jenny Graham

While the play was being developed, a third key voice joined the creative team in the form of director Tony Taccone. Mr. Taccone, who helmed and co-wrote the 2019 world premiere of John Leguizamo’s “Kiss My Aztec!” at La Jolla Playhouse (which one critic described as “In the Heights” crashing into “The Book of Mormon”), also helped launch the legendary “Angels in America,” Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” and Green Day’s musical, “American Idiot.”


Adding to the creative crew are Christopher Barreca as Scenic Designer, Sara Ryung Clement as Costume Designer, Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz as Lighting Designer, Jesse Mandapat as Sound Designer, Jerry Patch as Dramaturg, Kathryn Davies as Stage Manager, and Joanne DeNaut CSA as Casting. Paula Tomei is SCR Managing Director, and David Emmes & Martin Benson are Founding Artistic Directors.


“A Shot Rang Out, A Play in One Man” will run on the Segerstrom Stage, South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa through November 6th. Approximately 85 minutes with no intermission. Evening Performances are on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m.: Oct. 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 and Nov. 3-4. Fridays, Saturdays, at 8 p.m.: Oct 8-9, 15, 22-23, 29-30, Nov. 5-6. Matinees are on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.: No matinee on Nov. 7. ASL-interpreted performance: Saturday, Oct. 23, at 2:30 p.m. Proof of full vaccination and facial masks are required.


Tickets are $26 to $93, with additional discounts available for educators, seniors and theatregoers ages 25 and under. For ticket purchase, or more information on “A Shot Rang Out” or other upcoming SCR's plays and programs, please visit www.scr.org.


Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report