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Sunol Rep returns with familiar melodrama

Troupe reprising 'The Treasure of Shiver River' onstage this month
SUNOL REP01~Shiver River 2019
Klay Kunkel (kneeling) is Marshal Marshall Law in Sunol Rep's performance of "The Treasure of Shiver River."

The Sunol Repertory Theatre is back onstage for two weekends in May, reprising the melodrama it prepared to perform before the Bay Area first shut down two years ago.

In March 2020, SRT planned a performance of "The Treasure of Shiver River," but soon after a dress rehearsal early that month, the production was canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the arts industry to a halt.

"We had our rehearsals in January and February and a dress rehearsal in March and we have the Pleasanton Senior Center bring a group here," said the play's director, Klay Kunkel. "We got through dress rehearsal and we did our opening night on March 6, I think it was, and we got shut down."

Now, over two years since SRT last performed "The Treasure of Shiver River," the troupe is at it again with nearly the exact same cast as was originally planned and ready to open for a two-weekend run on May 14.

Because melodramas are a bit of a staple for SRT, the show, Kunkel said, is best when the audience is fully invested and fully through vocal cues throughout the performance.

"We almost demand to have audience participation," Kunkel said. "They get to boo and hiss the villain and ooh and aah the hero and heroine. We've done other comedies the past couple of years, and this returns us to the melodrama ... and people really wanted to have that back."

In "The Treasure of Shiver River," scoundrel Rod Enreel (Bob Canning) is looking for hidden treasure on Col. Ticonderoga Sanders' (Conover Smith) Shiver River Ranch and plans to take over the land if Sanders can't sell his cattle and come up with money for the mortgage. Meanwhile Marshal Marshall Law (Kunkel) is planning to propose to Sanders' daughter, Heidi Claire (Meredith Sarboraria), but can't without his grandmother's ring, which was lost to Lotta Luck (Robin Spindler), the now-reformed gambler and proprietor of the Shiver Valley Hotel.

Hilarity ensues as the villains and heroes go back and forth in a battle of good versus evil.

"It's just one of these family events," Kunkel said. "You can bring your dog; you can maybe have a glass of wine if you'd like, and just enjoy. It's a lighthearted, good versus evil hoot ... It's really a community affair and we want people to visit Sunol and come see us."

SRT performs one play each year at the Sunol Glen School, but as a trial, this performance is taking place outdoors at the Sunol Depot Garden, 1 Kilkare Road.

Kunkel said if the performance is a hit, SRT will consider adding a second play to its upcoming season. This would allow the performance group to keep the spring performance as a melodrama, which Kunkel said patrons love, while allowing SVT to produce a comedy in the fall.

Shows are Saturdays, May 14 and 21, at 5 p.m. and Sundays, May 15 and 22, at 3 p.m. Tickets, $15, are available at

Patrons are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs. Refreshments will be available at each show through local organizations including Sunol 4-H, Sunol Business Guild, Little Brown Church of Sunol and Sunol Community Emergency Response Team. As with all SRT performances, proceeds from the show will be donated to the arts program at Sunol Glen School.

SRT is additionally looking for a handful of new actors to keep the theater alive for the next 39-1/2 years. Those interested can reach out to SRT online or speak to any of the actors after viewing a performance of "The Treasure of Shiver River."