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Best Theater Company 

Shotgun Players

You almost start to wonder whether the people at Shotgun haven't sold their souls to the devil. Otherwise it's difficult to explain how the company manages to achieve its elusive combination of artistic daring, cultural relevance, and showstopping kickassery — and just keeps doing it, show after show. Shotgun opened its 2011 season with Beardo, a new musical about Rasputin, with song-and-dance numbers influenced by Patsy Cline and Prince in roughly equal measure. The result could've been a scattershot mess. But thanks in part to the guidance of artistic director Patrick Dooley, Beardo manages to be the most exciting original work to land on a Bay Area stage in quite some time. Next up: Jeff Raz's The Road to Hades, a musical reconsideration of Aristophanes. Could all this creativity and vitality be the result of some Faustian pact? Yeah, sure. But we frankly don't care, so long as we get decent seats.

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