Theater Listings: February 26 - March 4, 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.
Mommy Queerest Exit Studio, 156 Eddy, SF; www.divafest.info. $15-25. Opens Fri/28, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 29. DIVAfest and Guerrilla Rep present Kat Evasco (who co-wrote with John Caldon) in an autobiographical solo comedy about the relationship between a lesbian daughter and her closeted lesbian mother.
"Risk Is This ... The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival" Tides Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr; www.cuttingball.com. Free ($20 donation for reserved seating). Opens Fri/28, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. (Starting March 14, venue changes to Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF). Through March 29. Five new works in staged readings, including two from Cutting Ball resident playwright Andrew Saito.
Tipped & Tipsy Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Sat/1, 5pm. Runs Sat, 5pm; Sun, 7pm. Through April 6. Solo performer Jill Vice performs her Fringe Festival hit.
The Altruists Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.shewolftheater.com. $19-34. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through March 8. She Wolf Theater performs Nicky Silver's "politically incorrect" play that exposes the real motivations behind altruistic behavior.
Children Are Forever (All Sales are Final!) Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $15. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 22. W. Kamau Bell directs Julia Jackson in her solo show about adoption.
Feisty Old Jew Marsh San Francisco Main Stage, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-100. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (Sun/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.
Hundred Days Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. $10-100. Previews Wed/26, 7pm; Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm. Opens Sat/1, 8pm. Runs Wed and Sun, 7pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through April 6. Z Space presents the world premiere of a folk rock odyssey conceived and created by Abigail and Shaun Bengson.
An Indian Summer Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wehavemet.org. $20-40. Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm. 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 movable 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 wheelchair 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). 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)
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."
Napoli! ACT's Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $10-120. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm; Tue, 7pm (Tue/4, show at 8pm). Through March 9. American Conservatory Theater offers Bay Area audiences a rare look at one of the Neapolitan plays by Italy's famed writer Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984). Set in a humble home in working-class Naples during and just after World War II, amid the transition from Fascism to the postwar order, the play's broad comedy comes with a strong undercurrent of social drama, as well as unexpectedly poignant moments. Its hero is the head of the household, Gennaro (former ACT core company member Marco Barricelli in a boisterous and gently moving performance), whose upright nature proves increasingly out-of-step with the times and indeed his own family, as his wife, Amalia (a commanding Seana McKenna), begins a black-market trade in coffee beans that becomes an all-out family crime ring by war's end. While this dynamic offers fodder for some rather hokey if not unenjoyable comedy, the play gathers itself into a serious and timely indictment of privilege and its corrosion of community, as well as the need for solidarity as the only viable, indeed the only satisfying way forward. If the message and the playwright-messenger (De Fillipo, also an actor, originated the part of Gennaro himself) come across today as somewhat heavy-handed, it remains hard to dismiss Napoli! as just a museum piece. That's due in part to director Mark Rucker's large and graceful cast, as well as a buoyant new translation by Linda Alper and ACT's Beatrice Basso. But it's also the prescience and appositeness for us, all these many years later and miles away, of the play's fundamentally social and political concerns. (Avila)
The Scion Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-60. Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 5pm. Brian Copeland's fourth solo show takes on "privilege, murder, and sausage."
Shit & Champagne Rebel, 1772 Market, SF; shitandchampagne.eventbrite.com. $25. Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. 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."
Twelfth Night Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, SF; www.calshakes.org. $20. Thu/27-Sun/2, 8pm (also Sun/2, 2pm). California Shakespeare Theater kicks off its 40th anniversary season with a touring performance of Shakespeare's classic romance, featuring an all-female cast.
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 of Paradox Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.paradoxmagic.com. $12-15. Opens Mon/24, 8pm. Runs Mon, 8pm (no show March 10). Through April 7. Footloose presents David Facer in his solo show, a mix of magic and theater.
Yellow New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 23. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the Bay Area premiere of Del Shores' Mississippi-set family drama.
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.
Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-35. Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 8:30pm. Don Reed's new show offers more stories from his colorful upbringing in East Oakland in the 1960s and '70s. More hilarious and heartfelt depictions of his exceptional parents, independent siblings, and his mostly African American but ethnically mixed working-class community — punctuated with period pop, Motown, and funk classics, to which Reed shimmies and spins with effortless grace. And of course there's more too of the expert physical comedy and charm that made long-running hits of Reed's last two solo shows, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel (both launched, like this newest, at the Marsh). Can You Dig It? reaches, for the most part, into the "early" early years, Reed's grammar-school days, before the events depicted in East 14th or Kipling Hotel came to pass. But in nearly two hours of material, not all of it of equal value or impact, there's inevitably some overlap and indeed some recycling. Note: review from an earlier run of the show. (Avila)
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/27, 8pm; Sat/1, 5pm. 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. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 9. Aurora and director Jon Tracy's Bay Area premiere of Johnna Adams' two-hander features strong acting, strong enough almost to make us believe in its premise. A harried mother named Corryn (a terrific Jamie J. Jones) arrives at the empty middle-school classroom overseen by a distracted teacher, Heather (a subdued yet agitated Stacy Ross). Corryn, proud but somehow desperate, admits to having not slept. Heather initially doesn't know why she's there — until it becomes clear she's the mother of a recent suicide, who has come to keep her appointment for a parent-teacher conference. The two women await the arrival of the absent principal, but Corryn presses for answers now to the circumstances surrounding her child's final days, which included his suspension from school and a beating received at the hands of fellow students. Heather, who seems to be hiding some separate anxiety or grief of her own (and is, though what we don't learn until nearly the end of the play), does her best to deflect any such conversation until the principal arrives but is soon embroiled in an argument with the headstrong and canny mother in front of her, a literature professor at a major university. Their dance centers on Corryn's son's last assignment, a short story, one his teacher sees as nothing but "hate-filled poisonous attacks," but his mother calls "poetry." In addition to the clash between a teacher's authority and a mother's regard, there's a class component to these differing perspectives, we presume. Yet there is a real issue here, somewhere, about art and education and authority — or would be if it did not end up buried along with the young writer we never meet. Playwright Adams advances the dramatic tension by tacking this way and that around her subject, but loses sight of the shore meanwhile, as her characters debate whether or not the short story contains a virtuous accusation against an instance of child abuse, only to drop this crux a moment later in a hard-to-credit squeamishness on Corryn's part over the potentially homoerotic longings of her deceased son. The final note lands in an even hokier key of mutual sorrow and understanding. (Avila)
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 and March 13, 2pm); Wed, 7pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 16. July 4, 1836: As a white New Orleans patriarch (Ray Reinhardt) passes from the scene, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, his longtime mistress, Beartrice (an imposing, memorable Lizan Mitchell), and their daughters (the charmingly varied trio of Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Flor De Liz Perez, and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart) — all free women of color — vie for dominance while trying to secure their respective futures in Berkeley Rep's sumptuous and beautifully acted world premiere. Nationally acclaimed playwright and Oakland native Marcus Gardley (And Jesus Moonwalked the Mississippi; This World in a Woman's Hands) brews up a historically rich and revealing, as well as witty and fiery tale here, based on the practice of plaçage (common-law marriages between white men and black Creole women), grounding it in the large personalities of his predominately female characters — who include a nosy and angling intruder (played with subtlety by Petronia Paley) — and lacing it all with a delirious dose of magical realism via the voodoo charms of Beartrice's slave, Makeda (Harriett D. Foy, who with Keith Townsend Obadike also contributes lush, atmospheric compositions to the proceedings). Gardley delves productively into the history overall, although he sometimes indulges it too much in awkward and ultimately unnecessary expository dialogue. When he allows his characters full scope for expression of their personalities and relationships, however, the dialogue sails by with brio and punch —something the powerhouse cast, shrewdly directed by Patricia McGregor, makes the most of throughout. (Avila)
An Ideal Husband Douglas Morrison Theatre, 22311 N. Third St, Hayward; www.dmtonline.org. $10-29. Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm; Sun/2, 2pm. Douglas Morrison Theatre performs Scott Munson's adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, reset in 1959 Washington, DC.
Lasso of Truth Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $37-58. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/1 and March 15, 2pm; March 6, 1pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 16. Marin Theatre Company performs Carson Kreitzer's new play about the history of Wonder Woman.
The Lion and the Fox Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.centralworks.org. $15-28. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 30. Central Works performs a prequel to its 2009 hit, Machiavelli's The Prince, which depicts a face-off between Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia.
A Maze Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.justtheater.org. $20-25. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 9. Following a well-received run last summer at Live Oak Theater, Just Theater's West Coast premiere of Pittsburgh-based playwright Rob Handel's 2011 jigsaw drama gets a second life, courtesy of presenter Shotgun Players, in this remounting at Ashby Stage. Half the pleasure of a play like this is the unfolding of its serpentine plot, which becomes much more linear in the second half but initially seems to hover around three very disparate situations: 17-year-old Jessica (Frannie Morrison), recently escaped from eight years of captivity in the home and cellar of her kidnapper, prepares for an interview with a Barbara Walters-like TV journalist (Lauren Spencer); Oksana (Sarah Moser) and Paul (Harold Pierce), who head up their own highly successful rock band (suggestively titled the Pathetic Fallacy), are in the midst of a tough transition as Oksana checks Paul into rehab; and a fairytale King (Lasse Christiensen) responds to the Queen's (Janis DeLucia) news that they are about to have an "heir" by beginning construction on a gigantic, seemingly endless maze emanating outward from their cozy den to the furthest reaches of the kingdom. Meanwhile, the director of the rehab clinic (Carl Holvick-Thomas) introduces Paul to another artist-resident, a fussy, eccentric author named Beeson (Clive Worsley) at work on a multi-volume graphic novel of maddening intricacy. As the three storylines begin to coalesce, the play asks us to consider questions about artistic liberty, authorship, responsibility, human connection — big themes like that. It does so in a mostly playful, only slightly eerie way, despite the grim central situation revolving around the bright and surprisingly outgoing Jessica. Employing almost the identical cast as last time, again under director Molly Aaronson-Gelb, the proceedings unfold with generally solid acting, if not always persuasive dialogue, at least where things are meant to be more or less realistic (to an extent, the fairytale segment comes across more compellingly for being strictly bound by the artificial nature of its narrative). There's a quirky quality to the play, and the production, that amuses, even as the coy plotline bemuses. And much like an amusement park adventure, the play makes sure no one really gets lost. This is a play that is happy to tell you the various ways the central "maze" might be read metaphorically, for instance, so that everything is tidy and clear — like a fairytale, or a graphic novel — not so mysterious in the end, just tinged with a kind of comfortable melancholy. (Avila)
The Music Man Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. 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.
"The Aftermath Affair" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odcdance.org. Fri/28-Sun/2, 8pm. $20-35. Blind Tiger Society performs a world premiere by choreographer Bianca Cabrera.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sat/1, March 8, 16, 22, and 30, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
"Collected Stories" Cartwright Hotel, 524 Sutter, SF; www.collectedstoriessf.com. Thu/27-Sat/1, 8pm (also Sat/1, 2pm); Sun/2, 2pm. $21-28. Expression Productions performs a "pop-up theater" take on Donald Margulies' drama about a university professor and her protégé.
"Dream Queens Revue" Aunt Charlie's Lounge, 133 Turk, SF; www.dreamqueensrevue.com. Wed/26, 9:30pm. Free. Drag with Collette LeGrande, Ruby Slippers, Sophilya Leggz, Bobby Ashton, and more.
Feinstein's at the Nikko Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.feinsteinssf.com. This week: Paula West, Thu/27-Fri/28, 8pm; Sat/1, 7 and 9:30pm, $35-50.
"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.
"The Magic Flute" Center for New Music, 55 Taylor, SF; themagicflute.brownpapertickets.com. Thu/27 and March 7, 7pm; Sun/2, 2pm. $15-20. Waffle Opera performs a stripped-down version of Mozart's classic, with new English dialogue.
"Partyiac Arrest: A Post-Valentine's Hangover Cabaret" Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, #27, SF; www.mojotheatre.com. Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. $10-15. Raucous variety show (comedy, music, circus acts, short films, and more) with Mojo Theatre.
"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)
"The Romane Event Comedy Show" Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF; www.pacoromane.com. Wed/26, 8-10pm. $10. With Bay Area comedy all-stars Paco Romane, Will Durst, Karina Dobbins, and Nick Palm.
"Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now" This week: Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl; www.bcfhereandnow.com. Fri/28-Sat/1, 8pm. $10-25.The festival, which runs through March 8, continues its 10th anniversary with "BCF Oakland," featuring works by Joanna Haigood, Gregory Dawson, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Portsha Jefferson, and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes.
"The Buddy Club Children's Shows" JCC of the East Bay Theater, 1414 Walnut, Berk; www.thebuddyclub.com. Sun/2, 11am. $8. With acrobat and juggler Dana Smith. Also Sun/2, 11:30am, $8, Kanbar Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N. San Pedro, San Rafael; www.thebuddyclub.com. With magician Brian Scott.
"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.
"Poetry Express" Himalayan Flavors, 1585 University, Berk; poetryexpressberkeley.blogspot.com. Mon, 7pm. Free. Ongoing. This week: Zora Raab, plus open mic. *