Theater Listings: January 8 - 14, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Major Barbara ACT's Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-140. Previews Wed/8-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 7pm. Opens Jan 15, 8pm. Runs Tue-Sat, 8pm (Jan 21, show at 7pm; additional shows Jan 22 and 29, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 2. American Conservatory Theater performs a new production of George Bernard Shaw's political comedy.
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). Opens Fri/10, 7:40, 7:50, and 8pm admittance times. Runs 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."
Amaluna Big Top at AT&T Park, Third Street at Terry A. Francois Blvd, SF; www.cirquedusoliel.com. $50-175. Wed/8-Sat/11, 8pm (also Thu/9-Sat/11, 4:30pm); Sun/12, 1, 4:30. Cirque de Soleil is back in town, this time bringing its Tempest-inspired Amaluna to the big top set up outside AT&T Park. Touted for being a celebration of "women [sic] power," it seems initially odd that the design elements are so focused on the male peacock feather — all greens and blues and graceful, with curving "fronds" rising up from the stage. Jungle sounds chirp in the background as a bevy of Amazonian women in bejeweled headdresses and a mischievous lizard-man circulate the room until the show starts with the lovely abstraction of a floating red cloud of translucent fabric dancing in a single beam of light. The flimsy plotline is forgettable, a coming-of-age and courtship tale between the island's young princess, Miranda (Iuliia Mykhailova) and a shipwrecked young Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin), though the parallel courtship between the two comic figures of Jeeves (Nathalie Claude) and Deeda (Shereen Hickman) provides a bit of levity and a novel use for footballs. The most realized character is probably Cali (Victor Kee), the half-lizard, whose prehensile tail and neon body paint give him an otherworldly allure, but it's the aerialist goddesses and fierce embodiments of the storm that are most memorable from an acrobatic point-of-view, and Lara Jacobs' unique balancing act from a meditative one. (Gluckstern)
Avenue Q New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed/8-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 2pm. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the Tony-winning comedy.
The Book of Mormon Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market, SF; www.shnsf.com. $60-120. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 1 and 6:30pm. Through Jan 19. When approaching the oeuvre of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it's best to check your political correctness at the door. That's certainly no less true of their 2011 Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, co-penned with Robert Lopez (of Avenue Q fame), despite the clean-scrubbed appearance of their fumbling albeit well-intentioned missionary protagonists. Sent to Uganda for two years, top mission pupil Elder Price (Nic Rouleau) and his clumsy but affable partner Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) are faced with a village oppressed by a scenery-chewing warlord, a demoralized coterie of fellow missionaries who have yet to have a successful conversion, and their own fraught, odd-couple dynamic. Rouleau's Price is an appropriate blend of smarm, charm, and secret self-doubt while Holmes excels in his portrayal of a perennial-loser-turned-prophet (his power ballad-esque solo in "Man Up" is one of the show's best). Of their hosts, the wry Mafala (James Vincent Meredith) and his sweet but strong-willed daughter Nabulungi (Syesha Mercado) get the most stage time, but it's the crude and caustic General (David Aron Damane) who grabs the most attention. The gleefully profane "Hasa Diga Eebowai," a Forbidden Zone-style "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", and the deliriously blasphemous "Joseph Smith, American Moses," round out the entertaining, and strangely informative, score. Though it's (very) unlikely to convert you to the Church of Latter-Day Saints, there's a good chance you'll want to convert to the church of Parker and Stone, if you haven't already. (Gluckstern)
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.
The Oy of Sex Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $20-100. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Jan 18. Comedian Alicia Dattner performs her solo show, based on her stories from her own life and love addiction.
Road Show Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.therhino.org. $15-30. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Jan 19. This Stephen Sondheim musical has suspiciously gone by several previous names, like someone on the lam: Gold! (in one incarnation), Wiseguys (in a workshop form), Bounce (in still another production), and then Road Show (in the revised form that was finally presented at New York's Public Theater in 2008). It gets its first Bay Area airing in this unevenly cast but not uninteresting staging by Theatre Rhinoceros and artistic director John Fisher. No fan of the great Sondheim will want to miss this, no matter what problems it may have structurally (and it has problems structurally) or in performance (it has those too). Given the context of Sondheim's brilliant career and unmistakable genius, Road Show proves an intriguing evening even where it disappoints. Set in the opening decades of the 20th century, it's the story of Addison Mizner (a boyishly gruff and musically solid Bill Fahrner, well known veteran of 42nd Street Moon productions) and his somewhat rascally brother Wilson (a sure Rudy Guerrero), charged by their late father (a nicely animated Kim Larsen) with making something of themselves. This instigates their tempestuous entrepreneurial journey from the Alaskan Gold Rush to the Florida Real Estate boom of the 1920s, with trips home to their devoted, doting mother (Kathryn Wood) whenever they fail or fall out with one another. Musical director and piano accompanist Dave Dobrusky (also of musical mavens 42nd Street Moon) gets hardworking performances from the cast (some of whom can nevertheless stray at times much further than the rambling brothers at the center of the story). But the love-hate relationship between the brothers, or the doomed big romance between Addison and a handsome scion of an industrial magnate (an inconsistent but charming Michael Doppe), never makes much dramatic sense. Everyone seems too disagreeable to be considered somehow irresistible. However, some shaky singing aside, there is much to admire in the musical — it's a Sondheim after all, witty and often beguiling to the ear and imagination. But if Sondheim's music and lyrics are the road, John Weidman's book is all over the place. By the end it seems as if a four-hour saga had been folded up like a roadmap along all the wrong creases, a doubtful package best tucked once again into an out-of-the-way drawer. (Avila)
Storefront Church San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St, Second Flr, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-100. Wed/8-Thu/9, 7pm; Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat/11, 3pm). Weighty themes come leavened by sharp comedy and engaging characters in this 2012 play from New York's John Patrick Shanley (Doubt), now enjoying a strong and lively Bay Area premiere at SF Playhouse in director Joy Carlin's well cast production. Ethan, a gregarious retired accountant and professed secular Jew (a hilarious and endearing Ray Reinhardt) tries to get some relief for his Puerto Rican wife, Jessie (a bubbly Gloria Weinstock), who is perilously behind on her loan payments. But it's like getting the proverbial blood from a stone during his meeting with her humorless and immobile — indeed, partly paralyzed — loan officer (a quietly shattered Rod Gnapp). Ethan appeals to morality; loan officer Reed sticks to the rules of the system. Enter Donaldo (an admirably sure yet understated Gabriel Marin), the Bronx's upstanding borough president and the son of Jessie's old friend. Donaldo has much bigger business with the bank underway (a proposed mall deal that will bring jobs, if at the expense of local character) and at first begs off — until he learns his mother has co-signed the loan. Soon, Donaldo is visiting the source of Jessie's money problems: a somber Pentecostal preacher and Katrina-refugee named Chester (a gently solemn Carl Lumbly) who has installed a traffic-less church in the storefront below her apartment but remains himself paralyzed by depression and uncertainty. Donaldo, himself a preacher's son, and Chester soon engage in a fiery and captivating debate that turns on the contradictions between moral conviction and worldly compromise. From there on, a fractured congregation of sorts begins to form around the preacher and Donaldo, including the unctuous yet aloof CEO of the bank (played with bounding confidence by a fine Derek Fischer). It all leads to a rousingly funny and tender scene that makes good on the season's usual lip service to fraternal feeling and communal values. (Avila)
The Tempest Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.doitliveproductions.com. $15. Thu and Sun, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Jan 18. At the outset of Do It Live! Productions' staging of Shakespeare's late play, scenic designer Yusuke Soi sums up a serene faraway landscape in an exquisite single stroke — a sloping, flat-topped dodecagon of buffed wood occupying the vast center of the small stage. Wooden hinges provide several footholds for climbing, and a thick rope dropping from the flies allows rapid motion across the surface, down which actors can also slide from peak to floor with practically the velocity of a fall. That impressive structure is unfortunately the smoothest aspect of the production, however, since the unfurling of the story and speech is by contrast too unsettled in co-directors Will Hand and Kenny Toll's compact staging. They find opportunities here and there for the actors to take flight in dynamic relation to the set, but not as many as you might imagine, and the cast — led by a capable but somewhat colorless Bill Peters as Prospero — is not equally up to the dramatic flights either. Themes of revenge, subjugation, love, and service mingle fitfully here, without any clear distillation of the many-hued drama. The high comical scene with Stephano (Nick Medina), Trinculo (Anthony Agresti), and a terrified, then soused Caliban (a sinewy, tattooed Caleb Cabrera) comes off as one of the more effective scenes (thanks especially to Medina's robust performance), but it stands out more by contrast than anything else. (Avila)
Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-35. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Feb 2. 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)
Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Wed/8-Thu/9, 7pm; Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm. Shotgun Players performs Anthony Neilson's comic romp set in "a sensual Edwardian world of top hats, fantastical puppets, and flash powder."
Sherlock Holmes: The Broken Mirror Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-28. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Jan 26. Jeff Garrett portrays all the characters (Sherlock, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Moriarty...) in this adaptation of William Gillette's Holmes play.
Tristan & Yseult Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $17.50-81. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Thu and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Jan 18); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Extended through Jan 18. Kneehigh presents an innovative take on the ancient love-triangle tale.
"After the Light" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.lissfaindance.org. Thu/9-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 2pm. $15-35. Liss Fain Dance presents its 2014 home season, featuring a world premiere.
"Attractive Camp" Lost Weekend Video, 1034 Valencia, SF; Facebook: Attractive Camp. Sun/12, 8pm. $10. Stand-up comedy with host Nicole Calasich and performers Caitlin Gill, Anna Serengina, Dave Ross, Scott Simpson, and Matt Lieb.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sat/11, Jan 19, 25, Feb 1, 8, 14, 16, 22, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
"Comedy Bottle" Purple Onion at Kells, 530 Jackson, SF; www.purpleonionatkells.com. Fri/10-Sat/11, 7pm. $10. Comedy with Enrique Casolla and Kyle McFadden.
Feinstein's at the Nikko Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.feinsteinssf.com. Tom Wopat in "I've Got Your Number," Thu/9, 8, $35-45. Cheyenne Jackson in "I'm Blue, Skies," Fri/10, 8pm; Sat/11, 7pm, $50-65.
"FRESH Festival 2014" CounterPULSE UnderGround, 80 Turk, SF; www.artsbuildingconsortium.org. FRESH Perspectives community events, $5-10; performances, $15-20. Through Jan 19. Performances from Violeta Luna, Brontez Purnell, and Sara Kraft (Fri/10-Sat/11), and Abby Crain, Jess Curtis, Laura Arrington, and viv (Jan 17-18). Community events (dates and times vary) include music and dance mixers, showcases, discussions, and more. The festival also includes classes ($400-750) for performers.
"Point Break Live!" DNA Lounge, 373 11th St, SF; www.dnalounge.com. Feb 7, 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)
"Sea of Reeds" Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF; www.jccsf.org. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat/11, 3pm). $25-35. Josh Kornbluth performs his solo comedy about his decision to get bar-mitzvahed at age 52 — in Israel.
"Shotz: Unisex" Tides Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.amiosnyc.org. Tue/14, 8pm. $10 (includes a beer). AmiosSF presents six short plays, five minutes each, related to the theme "Unisex" and including the phrase "such amazing options" and "a reference to a stop sign of some sort."
"Buddy Club Children's Shows" JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut, Berk; www.thebuddyclub.com. Sun/12, 11am-noon. $8. With The Bubble Lady. Also Sun/12, 11:30am-12:30pm, $8, Kanbar Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N. San Pedro, San Rafael. With the Comedy Pirate, Cap'n Jack Spareribs.
"reveries and elegies" Milkbar, Sunshine Biscuit Factory, 851 81st St, Oakl; www.maryarmentroutdancetheater.com. Sat/11-Sun/12 and Jan 18-19, 4:30pm; Jan 25-26, 4:45pm. $20. Mary Armentrout's new site-specific project is timed to coincide with sundown on each performance day. *