ASR Theater ~~ “Best Available”: Naval Gazing About How Theaters Are Run

By Susan Dunn

The set is a simple rotating turntable under an arched, red-curtained proscenium. A ghost light illuminates the bare stage, a stand-in for the story’s ghost, Gary, a disgraced Artistic Director and theater founder whom no one is allowed to speak about but does anyway. This well-known non-profit theater has fired him under a cloud of scandal. The remaining company members must pick up the pieces, find a replacement, and hold the rest of the season together.

It’s fitting that the play opens with the box-office staff taking calls to quiet the scandal, reassuring patrons, and putting a gloss and smile on their every cover-up word. We begin to get the idea BS will be the name of the game.

” … Best Available hits the sweet spot …”

Jonathan Spector’s Best Available pulls the curtain back, reveals, and satirizes the many interested parties that posture, opine, and expound on the importance of this key position of Artistic Director (AD). And how the theater organization can be made whole again now that ‘SHHHH, Gary’ is gone. We meet these stakeholders for two and a half hours, their varied perspectives and final choice to run the show in individual scenes rotating on the turntable.

linda maria girón as Veronica & Dave Maier as Dave in “Best Available”.

First, the Managing Director, Helen, deftly played by Sarah Mitchell, tries to grasp control of the staff hiatus by persuading the former Assistant Artistic Director, Maya, to assume the position of Interim Artistic Director. Regina Morones, as Maya, is a convincing aspirant for the top staff position and wants to move to the key AD slot. She needs assurance that she can wrangle her way into the permanent position. As a Latina, she has an advantage that raises the stakes for DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and so critical to winning grants and other financial opportunities.

These two women scheme their different agendas together – and at cross purposes behind each other’s backs – to drive their power. Helen wants to book a new Musical based on the themes of old TV Movies – a direct appeal to the moneyed donor age group since she is in charge of finances. The new Interim Director, Maya wants to mount an early work of an unknown playwright with no financial resources — a forward-looking play choice, but one which might result in low box-office receipts.

From left, Denise Tyrell, Steve Price, Dave Maier, linda maria girón and Regina Morones in a scene from Jonathan Spector’s crazy comedy about theater companies “Best Available” performing at Shotgun Players in Berkeley through June 16.

The Theater Board of Directors, hilariously set up in numerous scenes to reveal how very little they understand how a theater is successfully run, want to outsource the decision of a new AD to a consulting firm helmed by the Tweedledum and Tweedledee duo of Dave Maier and Steve Price. Their board pitch is an extended circum-fabulation, guaranteed to confuse and insomnia a clown-car board. Finally, there is the ex-Board Member and mega-donor, Dolores, who still wields power and ultimately gets her way through her legacy donation and its requirements and restrictions.

Austine De Los Santos as Bex at Shotgun Players.

Best Available hits the sweet spot for anyone who has worked in theater or on a board of directors. There is much humor bordering on farce, and the multiple short scenes well describe the various stakeholders. But this reviewer felt that some passages and video projections could use … trimming. There is much potential here for a tighter comedy about that world that we love so well—the world of theater.


ASR Senior Writer Susan Dunn arrived in California from New York in 1991, and has been on the executive boards of Hillbarn Theatre, Altarena Playhouse, Berkeley Playhouse, Virago Theatre and Island City Opera, where she is a development director and stage manager. An enthusiastic advocate for new productions and local playwrights, she is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, and a recipient of a 2015 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award. Contact:

ProductionBest Available
Written byJonathan Spector
Directed byJon Tracy
Producing CompanyShotgun Players
Production Dates
Thru Jun 16th, 2024
Production Address1901 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley CA 94705
Telephone(510) 841-6500
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
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