Curtain up

FALL ARTS 2014 Ten top picks from the season's theater calendar

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The Old Woman
PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL PERFORMANCES

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FALL ARTS

The Old Woman Robert Wilson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Willem Dafoe — None of these guys are ever to be missed, but all three together are worthy of queuing up overnight to see. There'll be camping out onstage too, as Wilson directs Baryshnikov and Dafoe (playing several characters between them) in an outrageous piece of high-art drag, based on the short story by the formidable Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms. Nov. 21–23, Zellerbach Hall, Berk; www.calperformances.org

Cock As relationship plays go this is a prickly one. But British playwright Michael Bartlett scored big with this 2009 drama, in which a gay man falls for a woman and into a sexual identity crisis that takes the form of a merciless cockfighting pit. Sept. 5–Oct. 12, New Conservatory Theatre Center, SF; www.nctcsf.org

New Electric Ballroom Enda Walsh is not a household name, and Enda is not a typo. Nevertheless this is Ireland's, maybe the world's, most brilliant contemporary playwright — at least it sure seemed that way when Druid Theatre rolled into town in 2009 with Walsh's tragic-comic Escher-drawing of a play, The Walworth Farce. Some of us have been waiting for more from that weird, dark, deeply funny mind ever since. Sept. 3–Oct. 5, Shotgun Players at Ashby Stage, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org

The Totalitarians This grim and grimacing take on the current state of political discourse in the cornhusker state of Nebraska comes to Z Space as a newly commissioned comedy from the steely and hysterical pen of playwright-in-residence Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, who also penned Boom, T.I.C. (Trenchcoat in Common), and Hunter Gatherers. Nov. 19–Dec. 14, Z Space, SF; www.zspace.org

An Audience with Meow Meow Hypnotically charming, quixotic, and unflappably zany British cabaret sensation Meow Meow (aka Melissa Madden Gray) takes a rare Bay Area bow-bow in this new show adapted and directed by Kneehigh's Emma Rice. Sept. 5–Oct. 19, Berkeley Rep, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org

San Francisco Fringe Festival Indie theater at its shaggiest and most low-to-the-ground, the lottery-based, anything-and-everything Fringe offers 150 performances over 16 days at 50 minutes and 10 bucks per, which, if you do the math, equals fast, cheap, and out of control. Sept. 5–20, EXIT Theatreplex, SF; www.sffringe.org

Die! Mommie, Die! Charles Busch made a play, then a movie, then a play about shameless obsession, not least his own. J. Conrad Frank (creator of alter ego Katya Smirnoff-Skyy) steps into the unforgiving shoes of a title character originated by Busch, namely fallen 1960s pop singer Angela Arden — a cunning mash-up of Hollywood's grand, ax-wielding tradition of good-women-gone-bad. Oct. 3–Nov. 2, New Conservatory Theatre Center, SF; www.nctcsf.org

San Francisco Improv Festival Ten years old and still acting like it, the SF Improv Festival celebrates its milestone with an array of local talent headed up by special guests Tim Meadows (Saturday Night Live), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), and Ron West (Whose Line Is It Anyway?)Sept. 10–20, Eureka Theatre, SF; www.sfimprovfestival.com

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