‘Kings’ Exposes Some D.C. Dirty Laundry

The Ashby Stage takes up a timely topic: the corrosive effects of money on politics in Sarah Burgess’ ‘Kings.’


Photo courtesy of Shotgun Players

Berkeley audiences who saw Dry Powder, the hard-hitting satire of vulture capitalism, that played Aurora Theatre Company last year, might be hungry for more from sharply incisive playwright Sarah Burgess. Well, they’re in luck, because Burgess takes on the corrosive effects of money on politics in Kings, her new political satire that Shotgun Players now brings to the Ashby Stage.

Kings, which debuted at New York’s Public Theater last year, soberingly depicts how lobbyists and campaign funding can effectively neuter the most idealistic candidates. Sam Jackson plays Sydney Millsap, a freshman congressperson who’s both the first African American and the first woman to represent her Texas district and is determined to stand strong against corporate special interests and is under enormous pressure from colleagues and lobbyists alike. (The Public production starred Berkeley native Eisa Davis, whose play Bulrusher played Shotgun some years back.) That Millsap’s crusade is against a tax loophole for carried interest that’s been mighty lucrative for big business sounds mighty technical, but Dry Powder has already demonstrated how compelling dramatic Burgess can somehow make seemingly arcane financial details.

Directed by Joanie McBrien, the Shotgun production costars Sarah Mitchell, Elissa Beth Stebbins, and Don Wood as the forces determined to chip away at Congresswoman Millsap’s resolve. Coming at a time when some freshman members of Congress are publicly trying to unveil some of Washington’s dirty little secrets, Kings isn’t just timely — it’s practically a duty of well-informed citizenship.

Kings, May 16-Jun. 16, 8 p.m. or 7 p.m. Wed.-Thu.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 5 p.m. Sun; Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, $7-$40, 510-841-6500, or ShotgunPlayers.org.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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