Theater Listings: February 12 - 18, 2014
Stage listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, and Nicole Gluckstern. Submit items for the listings at email@example.com.
Children Are Forever (All Sales are Final!) Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $15. Previews Fri/14, 8pm. Opens Sat/15, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 22. W. Kamau Bell directs Julia Jackson in her solo show about adoption.
Napoli! ACT's Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $10-120. Previews Wed/12-Sat/15 and Tue/18, 8pm (also Sat/15, 2pm); Sun/16, 7pm. Opens Feb 19, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm; Tue, 7pm (March 4, show at 8pm). Through March 9. American Conservatory Theater performs a new translation of Eduardo de Filippo's poignant Italian comedy.
A Maze Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.justtheater.org. $20-25. Previews Fri/14-Sat/15, 8pm. Opens Sun/16, 5pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 9. Shotgun Players present Just Theater's production of Rob Handel's kaleidoscopic comedy.
The Music Man Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. Previews Thu/13, 7pm and Sat/15, 1pm. Opens Sat/15, 6pm. Runs Fri and March 20, 7pm; Sat, 1 and 6pm; Sun, noon and 5pm. Through March 23. There's trouble in River City! See it unfold amid all those trombones at Berkeley Playhouse.
Feisty Old Jew Marsh San Francisco Main Stage, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-100. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (March 2, performance at 2pm; March 9, performance will be a reading of Charlie Varon's Fish Sisters). Through March 16. Charlie Varon performs his latest solo show, a fictional comedy about "a 20th century man living in a 21st century city."
Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $32-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow's musical comedy revue all about food.
Hir Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, Third Flr, SF; www.magictheatre.org. $20-60. Wed-Sat, 8pm (additional show Feb 19, 2:30pm); Sun, 2:30pm. Through Feb 23. Taylor Mac, creator of 2011's five-hour six-director extravaganza The Lily's Revenge, returns to the Magic Theater with a much more straightforward, if not exactly straight, family comedy-drama in two acts. An Iraq vet named Isaac (Ben Euphrat) returns to his childhood home from the war, where his job was picking up body parts. His now touchy stomach is set off right away by the disturbing changes that have taken place while he was away. For one thing, the place is a dump. His father (a toddling, half-vacant, half-wily Mark Anderson Philips) has had a stroke that has left him an overgrown infant in thrall to his mother, Paige (a honeyed but brassy Nancy Opel), now come into her own as a liberated woman whose badge of honor is a derelict household out of all usual (patriarchal) order and discipline — and whose manner is just a little like that of an open-minded, half-savvy drag queen. Still more troubling to Isaac is his sister Maxine, now Max (an animated and winning Jax Jackson), in the midst of transitioning via regular internet-purchased doses of testosterone. (Max insists on being addressed with gender-neutral, third-person pronouns ze, in place of she/he, and hir for him/her). Soon Isaac shores up his father's position and mounts a counteroffensive to reclaim lost ground. An ideological turf war commences for control of the hearth and, by extension, the future of the family as an institution. Directed by Niegel Smith, the cast is competent but only intermittently effective at selling the high-octane comic premise. Jackson and Opel are the most consistent and persuasive. The play, meanwhile, has some good one-liners in addition to its intriguing premise, but gets mired in a broad and emotionally detached sitcom-like style, which can make the playwright's more theme-oriented, expositional dialogue sound all the more jarring. Nevertheless, the play tackles a serious question: whether it is better to build on the flawed institutions one inherits and try to do better or scrap it all for something supposedly new. It has the good sense to refrain from an easy resolution of the socially and politically freighted dynamic it sets up, pointing a little vaguely to some third-way forward, outside the traditional family, in Max's forestalled but anticipated flying of the coop. (Avila)
An Indian Summer Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wehavemet.org. $20-40. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through March 1. Multi Ethnic Theater presents local playwright Charles Johnson's parable of race relations in the Deep South of the 1980s. On a small stage split into two alternating scenes by a moveable wall in director-designer Lewis Campbell's set, two sets of working-class residents of rural Alabama, one white and one black, have their discrete worlds unexpectedly collide. Musician Charlie Ray (a less than convincing Kevin Wisney) is fresh from the pen and living with girlfriend Pearle (AJ Davenport). Plucking at his guitar, he dreams of getting some money to afford time in a recording studio. But his brother Bobby (Paul Rodriguez) has a way of talking him into sketchy schemes, which has Pearle worried, especially after a visit from the Sheriff (Richard Wenzel). For his part, Bobby is hoping to make some money to appease his pregnant wife, Sarah (Bree Swartwood), who wants Bobby to move her and their baby to Maine. Meanwhile, Junior (a forceful Bennie Lewis, alternating nights with Stuart Hall) is a feisty wheel-chair bound African American man living in a small trailer. Junior's friend Emmitt (Fabian Herd, alternating with Vernon Medearis) tries to convince him he should put his money in a bank rather than keeping it in his trailer — especially now that Junior is selling his land for a tidy sum — but Junior doesn't trust banks. Next, Junior gets a letter from a lawyer claiming half the profit from the land sale on behalf of a long lost, half-white relative — the offspring of an illicit romance between Junior's father and a white woman, related to Pearle. The situation, of course, spells trouble. But while we see it coming, there's meant to be pathos in the tangled connections among these parallel stories. Unfortunately, the artificial nature of the plot makes it hard to credit, while the desultory pace and uneven acting make the going harder still. (Avila)
Jerusalem San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-100. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm); Sun/16, 2pm. Through March 8. SF Playhouse presents the West Coast premiere of English playwright Jez Butterworth's West End and Broadway hit, a three-act revel led by a larger-than-life rebel, a stout boozed-up drug-dealer, habitual fabulist, and latter-day Digger of sorts named Johnny "Rooster" Byron (Brian Dykstra). The dominion of this Falstaffian giant is the English countryside outside his squalid trailer door, not far from Stonehenge, where he seems to incarnate a rather dissipated version of an ancient English independence, like one of the great mythical beings of rural lore. Aptly enough, it's Saint George's Day, the feast day of England's national saint, but it's not all a party this time around. Authorities have issued a final 24-hour eviction notice on Rooster's tin door; there are luxury apartments in the works; and there's concern in town about the underage teens who flock to Rooster like so many fledglings — one, in particular, has gone missing: Phaedra (Julia Belanoff), who we see at the very outset of the play donning a fairy costume and singing the title song, based on the Blake poem and England's unofficial national anthem. The next 24 hours will be either the breaking point or the apotheosis for all Rooster has made himself out to be. In Butterworth's big-eyed comedy, we are meant to feel a stake in this outcome whether we actually like Rooster or not — his independence, the scope of his life and vision, suggests the outer limit of possibility in an ever more disciplined and circumscribed world. Director Bill English (who also designed the impressive bucolic-trailer-park set) and his large cast (which includes a strong Ian Scott McGregor as longtime Rooster sidekick, Ginger) dive into the comedy with gusto. But somehow the drama, the larger stakes in the storyline, falls short. A certain requisite intensity and momentum are only fitfully achieved. Dykstra, as the expansive antihero, has the biggest burden here. And while he has an appealing swagger throughout, his wayward brogue and unconvincing bellicosity undercut the culmination of the play's (admittedly somewhat overwrought) mythopoeic proportions. (Avila)
"The Love Edition: Love Bytes" Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; facebook.com/TheLoveEdition. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Feb 22. Bindlestiff performs six different tales about online dating, loneliness in the cyber age, Google stalking, and other modern-day matters of the heart.
Lovebirds Marsh San Francisco Studio, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through March 15. Theater artist and comedian Marga Gomez presents the world premiere of her 10th solo show, described as "a rollicking tale of incurable romantics."
The Oy of Sex Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $20-100. Sat, 5pm. Extended through Feb 22. Comedian Alicia Dattner performs her solo show, based on her stories from her own life and love addiction.
The Paris Letter New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 23. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs Jon Robin Baitz's tale of a Wall Street powerhouse desperately trying to keep his sexual identity a secret.
The Pornographer's Daughter Z Below, 470 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. $32. Thu/13-Sat/15, 8pm (also Sat/15, 10:30pm); Sun/16, 5pm. Liberty Bradford Mitchell was a good kid growing up, and a pretty innocent one — probably more than you would expect given her proximity to the family business, the veritable empire of porn founded and run by her father and uncle, San Francisco legends Artie and Jim Mitchell. Now in her 40s and a mother of her own, Mitchell proves a likeably earthy presence if a less-then-compelling actor-playwright in her new one-woman show, directed by Michael T. Weiss, a firsthand account of growing up in San Francisco's first family of raunch. Inseparable brothers Artie and Jim were the 1970s porn pioneers who founded the O'Farrell Theatre and road high in the industry, weathering court battles and substance abuse and divorce, but succumbing ultimately to their own lethal fallout — Jim Mitchell shot and killed Liberty's father Artie in 1991. The material here is rich to say the least, and together with generous and explicit excerpts from archival footage and classic porn (including the Mitchells' own era-defining Behind the Green Door, from 1972), it makes a fascinating bed for Liberty Mitchell's reminiscences. Musical accompaniment by three-person SF band the Fluffers, meanwhile, punctuates the chronology with blasts of period rock, though often just a few bars worth, and backs up Liberty on the a single, rather awkward musical number. Moreover, despite the keen interest the basic historical facts and family anecdotes can generate, Mitchell's filial narrative lens is only intermittently effective, being finally too pat, poorly drawn, and predictably sentimentalized to fully reverberate with the larger, almost archetypical or classical themes hovering nearby. (Avila)
The Scion Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-60. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through March 1. Brian Copeland's fourth solo show takes on "privilege, murder, and sausage."
Shit & Champagne Rebel, 1772 Market, SF; shitandchampagne.eventbrite.com. $25. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Extended through March 1. D'Arcy Drollinger is Champagne White, bodacious blonde innocent with a wicked left hook in this cross-dressing '70s-style white-sploitation flick, played out live on Rebel's intimate but action-packed barroom stage. Written by Drollinger and co-directed with Laurie Bushman (with high-flying choreography by John Paolillo, Drollinger, and Matthew Martin), this high-octane camp send-up of a favored formula comes dependably stocked with stock characters and delightfully protracted by a convoluted plot (involving, among other things, a certain street drug that's triggered an epidemic of poopy pants) — all of it played to the hilt by an excellent cast that includes Martin as Dixie Stampede, an evil corporate dominatrix at the head of some sinister front for world domination called Mal*Wart; Alex Brown as Detective Jack Hammer, rough-hewn cop on the case and ambivalent love interest; Rotimi Agbabiaka as Sergio, gay Puerto Rican impresario and confidante; Steven Lemay as Brandy, high-end calf model and Champagne's (much) beloved roommate; and Nancy French as Rod, Champagne's doomed fiancé. Sprawling often literally across two buxom acts, the show maintains admirable consistency: the energy never flags and the brow stays decidedly low. (Avila)
The Speakeasy Undisclosed location (ticket buyers receive a text with directions), SF; www.thespeakeasysf.com. $60-90 (add-ons: casino chips, $5; dance lessons, $10). Thu-Sat, 7:40, 7:50, and 8pm admittance times. Through March 15. Boxcar Theatre presents Nick A. Olivero's re-creation of a Prohibition-era saloon, resulting in an "immersive theatrical experience involving more than 35 actors, singers, and musicians."
Ubu Roi Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through March 9. Cutting Ball Theater performs Alfred Jarry's avant-garde parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth, presented in a new translation by Cutting Ball artistic director Rob Melrose.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-11. Sun, 11am. Through March 9. The popular, kid-friendly show by Louis Pearl (aka "The Amazing Bubble Man") returns to the Marsh.
Escanabe in da Moonlight Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.theatrefirst.com. $10-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 8. TheatreFIRST performs Jeff Daniels' raucous comedy.
Geezer Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through March 1. Geoff Hoyle moves his hit comedy about aging to the East Bay.
Gideon's Knot Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Tue, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 2. Aurora Theatre Company performs Johnna Adams' drama set within the tense atmosphere of a parent-teacher conference.
The House That Will Not Stand Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-59. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, Thu/13, and March 13, 2pm; no matinee Sat/15); Wed, 7pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 16. Berkeley Rep performs the world premiere of Marcus Gardley's tale of free women of color in 1936 New Orleans.
An Ideal Husband Douglas Morrison Theatre, 22311 N. Third St, Hayward; www.dmtonline.org. $10-29. Fri-Sat and Feb 27, 8pm (also Feb 22, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through March 2. Douglas Morrison Theatre performs Scott Munson's adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, reset in 1959 Washington, DC.
The Laramie Project Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond; www.masquers.org. $22. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 22. Masquers Playhouse performs the theatrical collage about the real-life hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard.
Man in a Case Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $45-125. Wed/12, 7pm; Thu/13-Sat/15, 8pm; Sun/16, 2pm. It's a desultory country evening among friends — Belikov (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Barbara (Tymberly Canale), Ivan (Chris Giarmo), Burkin (Paul Lazar), and Kovalenko (Aaron Mattocks) — who chatter and quibble among themselves, just dying for a good story. Two tales eventually unfold, becoming the basis for an effervescent and emotive theatrical outing in this canny, elegant adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "Man in a Case" and "About Love" by co-directors Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson of Big Dance Theater. In a style that revels in what it reveals, the action centers around a long table to the left of the stage, at the far end of which sound designer Tei Blow manages sound effects and Jeff Larson triggers video projections from his laptop. (Peter Ksander's attractive, non-naturalist scenic design comes animated throughout by a discerning array of choice foley work and atmospheric video projections.) With each humorous and wistful story, the stage expands in unexpected ways, thanks to Parson's vibrant choreography, the shape-shifting mise-en-scene, golden-throated musical director Giarmo's exquisite score (much of it delivered live), and the superbly unaffected acting and supple movement of the cast. Acting the leads in both stories, Baryshnikov etches his respective characters with a masterful hand and a light step, making for a vivid presence at every turn. Opposite him each time, Canale's luminous vitality proves a perfect match. But this is truly an ensemble effort, and the fine result produces a poignant, moody combination of the earthy and sublime. (Avila)
Quality of Life Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear, Mtn View; www.thepear.org. $10-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 23. Pear Avenue Theatre performs Jane Anderson's play about two couples coming to grips with losses in their lives.
Aguas Dance Company ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odcdance.org. Fri/14-Sat/15, 8pm; Sun/16, 7pm. $27. The company performs Movendo com Capoeira, featuring Afro-Brazilian dance and live music.
"Best of the Bay Comedy Show" Pa'ina Lounge, 1865 Post, SF; www.painasf.com. Sun/16, 7pm. $10. Hella Gay Comedy presents its annual "best of" show featuring LBGT and LGBT-friendly comedians: Casey Ley, Justin Lucas, Kimberly Rose Wendt, and Rajeev Dhar. Charlie Ballard hosts.
"The Big Buttery Sketch Show" Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, SF; www.pianofight.com. Fri/14-Sat/15, 8pm. $20-30. PianoFight Productions' female-driven sketch comedy group Chardonnay (formerly ForePlays) performs.
"Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now" This week: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.bcfhereandnow.com. Thu/13-Sat/15, 8pm. $25-35. The festival continues its 10th anniversary with Nora Chipaumire's Miriam.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Fri/14 (see note below), Sun/16, Feb 22, March 1, 8, 16, 22, and 30, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians. Fri/14 Valentine's Day show, 5:30pm, $59.95 (includes dinner).
Company C Contemporary Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Lam Research Theater, 701 Mission, SF; www.companycballet.org. Thu/13-Fri/14, 8pm; Sat/15, 6pm (benefit gala); Sun/16, 3pm. $25-48. The company's winter program includes premieres by Susan Jaffe and Charles Anderson.
"Dream Queens Revue" Aunt Charlie's Lounge, 133 Turk, SF; www.dreamqueensrevue.com. Wed/12, 9:30pm. Free. Drag with Collette LeGrande, Ruby Slippers, Sophilya Leggz, Bobby Ashton, and more.
"Get Your Heart On with the Klipptones" Palace Hotel's Pied Piper, 2 New Montgomery, SF; (415) 512-1111. Fri/14, 8pm-midnight. Free ($10 food or beverage minimum). The six-piece ensemble plays swinging romantic songs for Valentine's Day.
"Live Law: Love and the Law" Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF; www.lifeofthelaw.com. Thu/13, 7pm. $20. Live storytelling with Senator Mark Leno, attorneys, a private investigator, and other legal-minded folks.
Feinstein's at the Nikko Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.feinsteinssf.com. This week: Paula West, Thu/13, 8pm; Fri/14, 7 and 9:30pm; Sat/15-Sun/16, 7pm, $35-50.
"Full Spectrum Improvisation" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.joyacory.com. Sun/16 and April 27, 3pm. $12-25. Also March 9, 3pm, Western Sky Studio, 2525 Eighth St, Berk. Improvisational theatre with Joya Cory, Craig Landry, Olivia Corson, Martin Robinson, and guests.
"How We First Met" Marines' Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter, SF; www.howwefirstmet.com. Fri/14, 8pm. $40-55. Back for its 14th year, this show created and hosted by Jill Bourque shares real-life love stories (from couples in the audience!) via improvised sketches and songs.
"Magic at the Rex" Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter, SF; www.magicattherex.com. Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. $25. Magic and mystery with Adam Sachs and mentalist Sebastian Boswell III.
"Mortified: Doomed Valentines" DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; www.getmortified.com. Thu/13, 7:30pm. $15-21. Also Fri/14, 8pm, $15-20, Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. Fearless storytellers share their most adorably embarrassing childhood writings — and since the theme is love blunders, expect tales of unrequited crushes, school-dance disasters, and teen-angst drama galore.
"Naked Dudes Reading Lovecraft" Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.hampantsproductions.com. Wed/12, 8pm. $20. "100 percent visible wing-wangs and hoo-hoos" are promised, plus maybe a tentacle or 12 too.
"Point Break Live!" DNA Lounge, 373 11th St, SF; www.dnalounge.com. March 7 and April 4, 7:30 and 11pm. $25-50. Dude, Point Break Live! is like dropping into a monster wave, or holding up a bank, like, just a pure adrenaline rush, man. Ahem. Sorry, but I really can't help but channel Keanu Reeves and his Johnny Utah character when thinking about the awesomely bad 1991 movie Point Break or its equally yummily cheesy stage adaptation. And if you do an even better Keanu impression than me — the trick is in the vacant stare and stoner drawl — then you can play his starring role amid a cast of solid actors, reading from cue cards from a hilarious production assistant in order to more closely approximate Keanu's acting ability. This play is just so much fun, even better now at DNA Lounge than it was a couple years ago at CELLspace. But definitely buy the poncho pack and wear it, because the blood, spit, and surf spray really do make this a fully immersive experience. (Steven T. Jones)
"Romantic Comedy Farce" Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason Center, SF; www.improv.org. Fri/14, 8pm. $20. BATS Improv takes on Valentine's Day.
"The Vagina Monologues/Monólogos de la Vagina" Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brava.org. Fri/14-Sat/15, 8pm (also Sat/15, 5pm); Sun/16, 2pm. $35-45. Eliana Lopez, Marisol Correa, and Alba Roversi star in this Spanish-language production of Eve Ensler's feminist classic.
"Die Fledermaus" Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; www.mvcpa.com. Sat/15, 8pm; Sun/16, 2pm. $20-53. Lamplighters Music Theatre (noted for its Gilbert and Sullivan productions) performs Johann Strauss' "bubbly tale of revenge and temptation." Continues at Bay Area theaters through Feb 23; visit www.lamplighters.org for future dates.
"Last Word Reading Series" Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid, Berk; (510) 841-6374. Fri/14, 7pm. Free. With poets Tom Odegard and Paradise, plus an open reading.
"MarshJam Improv Comedy Show" Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. Fri, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Improv comedy with local legends and drop-in guests.
"Something Sweet" Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia, Piedmont; www.westedgeopera.org. Fri/14, 7:30pm. $15-25. Romantic operatic repertoire sung by three real-life couples. *