Theater Listings: May 7 - 13, 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.
Chasing Mehserle Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, SF; chasingmehserle.brownpapertickets.com. $25. Opens Thu/8, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sun and Mon/12, 8pm. Through May 24. Also May 29-31, 8pm, $15-25, Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. Intersection for the Arts, Campo Santo, and the Living Word Project present Chinaka Hodge's performance piece about Oakland in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant killing.
Lovebirds Marsh San Francisco Studio, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $20-100. Opens Sat/10, 8:30pm. Runs Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through May 31. Award-winning solo theater artist Marga Gomez brings her hit comedy back for a limited run before taking it to New York in June.
The Color Purple Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale, Foster City; www.hillbarntheatre.org. $23-38. Previews Thu/8, 8pm. Opens Fri/9, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through June 1. Hillbarn Theatre closes its 73rd season with the musical adaptation of Alice Walker's classic novel.
Communiqué N°10 Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Thu, 7:30; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through May 25. Amid a fractious band of young rebels from the urban underclass and ongoing rioting in the streets, a young immigrant named Hassan (Damien Seperi) searches for the man who killed his 16-year-old brother. French playwright Samuel Gallet's Communiqué N°10 draws immediate inspiration from the Paris riots of 2005, but the tinder box of extreme inequality and anti-immigrant policies are hardly a French monopoly (indeed, the stand-off last year between immigrant rights demonstrators and French police following the deportation of a Roma student, snatched off a school bus in front of her classmates, sounds all too familiar to Americans living through Obama's unprecedented wave of deportations and incarcerations of undocumented people and the popular protest rising against it). Cutting Ball Theater's US premiere of Gallet's play, however, strains after its subject, timely though it is. Presented in association with Golden Thread Productions as part of the second biennial Des Voix&ldots; festival of new French plays and cinema, director and translator Rob Melrose's production sets the action on a spare set (designed by Michael Locher) ringed by a two-tier framework of metal piping, about which some of the seven-member cast climb and roost. But the sparse setting is in fact overwhelmed with altogether too much stage business, including Emma Jaster's somewhat labored choreography and Cliff Caruthers' often distracting soundscape, which only detracts from the already difficult-to-follow plot points and further undermines an ensemble that never really coheres. Add to this contrived dialogue such as Hassan's retort to having his picture snapped by love-interest Marlene (Maura Halloran) — "Images. We never know what purposes they serve in the end" — and what should be a tense and dynamic drama instead becomes a dreary, vaguely didactic ball of confusion. (Avila)
"DIVAfest" Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.divafest.info. Prices and showtimes vary. Through May 24. This 13th annual festival celebrates the work of women artists, with performances including the premiere of Rat Girl (adapted from the memoir by rocker Kristin Hersh), Margery Fairchild's ballet comedy The Pas De Quatre, a reading by acclaimed poet Diane di Prima, and more.
Dracula Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; sfdracula.blogspot.com. $35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 31. Kellerson Productions presents a new adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic.
Du Barry Was a Lady Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstmoon.org. $25-75. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm (also Sat/10 and May 17, 1pm); Sun, 3pm. Through May 18. 42nd Street Moon presents Cole Porter's saucy musical comedy, with comedian and writer Bruce Vilanch starring.
E-i-E-i-OY! In Bed with the Farmer's Daughter NOHSpace, 2840 Mariposa, SF; www.vivienstraus.com. $20. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm. Vivien Straus performs her autobiographical solo show.
Feisty Old Jew Marsh San Francisco Main Stage, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-100. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Starting May 17, performance schedule changes to Sat-Sun, 5pm. Extended through July 13. 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.
Pearls Over Shanghai Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 31. Five years ago, Thrillpeddlers breathed new life into a glitter-dusted piece of Sixties flotsam, beautifully reimagining the Cockettes' raunchy mock-operetta Pearls Over Shanghai (in collaboration with several surviving members of San Francisco's storied acid-drag troupe) and running it for a whopping 22 months. Written by Cockette Link Martin as a carefree interpretation of a 1926 Broadway play, the baldly stereotyped Shanghai Gesture, it was the perfectly lurid vehicle for irreverence in all directions. It's back in this revival, once again helmed by artistic director Russell Blackwood with musical direction by Cockette and local favorite Scrumbly Koldewyn. But despite the frisson of featuring some original-original cast members — including "Sweet Pam" Tent (who with Koldewyn also contributes some new dialogue) and Rumi Missabu (regally reprising the role of Madam Gin Sling) — there's less fire the second time around as the production straddles the line between carefully slick and appropriately sloppy. Nevertheless, there are some fine musical numbers and moments throughout. Among these, Zelda Koznofsky, Birdie-Bob Watt, and Jesse Cortez consistently hit high notes as the singing Andrews Sisters-like trio of Americans thrown into white slavery; Bonni Suval's Lottie Wu is a fierce vixen; and Noah Haydon (as the sultry Petrushka) is a class act. Koldewyn's musical direction and piano accompaniment, meanwhile, provide strong and sure momentum as well as exquisite atmosphere. (Avila)
Romeo and Juliet Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; www.eventbrite.com. $20. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun/11 and May 24, 3pm. Through May 24. Ninjaz of Drama performs Shakespeare's tragic romance.
Seminar San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, Second Flr, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-100. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm); May 18 and June 1 and 8, 2pm. Through June 14. San Francisco Playhouse performs Theresa Rebeck's biting comedy.
Shit & Champagne Rebel, 1772 Market, SF; shitandchampagne.eventbrite.com. $25. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. D'Arcy Drollinger is Champagne White, bodacious blond 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)
Sleeping Cutie: A Fractured Fairy Tale Musical Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; sleepingcutiemusical.tix.com. $30-40. Thu/8-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 2pm. Off a Cliff Productions and PlayGround present Diane Sampson and Doug Katsaros' world-premiere musical.
The Speakeasy Undisclosed location (ticket buyers receive a text with directions), SF; www.thespeakeasysf.com. $70 (gambling chips, $5-10 extra; after-hours admission, $10). Thu-Sat, 7:40, 7:50, and 8pm admittance times. Extended through May 24. Boxcar Theater's most ambitious project to date is also one of the more involved and impressively orchestrated theatrical experiences on any Bay Area stage just now. An immersive time-tripping environmental work, The Speakeasy takes place in an "undisclosed location" (in fact, a wonderfully redesigned version of the company's Hyde Street theater complex) amid a period-specific cocktail lounge, cabaret, and gambling den inhabited by dozens of Prohibition-era characters and scenarios that unfold around an audience ultimately invited to wander around at will. At one level, this is an invitation to pure dress-up social entertainment. But there are artistic aims here too. Intentionally designed (by co-director and creator Nick A. Olivero with co-director Peter Ruocco) as a fractured super-narrative — in which audiences perceive snatches of overheard stories rather than complete arcs, and can follow those of their own choosing — there's a way the piece becomes specifically and ever more subtly about time itself. This is most pointedly demonstrated in the opening vignettes in the cocktail lounge, where even the ticking of Joe's Clock Shop (the "cover" storefront for the illicit 1920s den inside) can be heard underscoring conversations (deeply ironic in historical hindsight) about war, loss, and regained hope for the future. For a San Francisco currently gripped by a kind of historical double-recurrence of the roaring Twenties and dire Thirties at once, The Speakeasy is not a bad place to sit and ponder the simulacra of our elusive moment. (Avila)
The Suit ACT's Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-120. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, Wed/7, and May 14, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (May 18, show at 1pm); Tue, 7pm (Tue/13, show at 8pm). Through May 18. ACT performs Peter Brook, Marie Hélène Estienne, and Franck Krawcyzk's music-infused drama about betrayal and resentment adapted from the short story by South African author Can Themba.
Tipped & Tipsy Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 5pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through May 17. Last fall's San Francisco Fringe Festival began on a high note with Jill Vice's witty and deft solo, Tipped & Tipsy, and the Best of Fringe winner is now enjoying another round at solo theater outpost the Marsh. Without set or costume changes, Vice (who developed the piece with Dave Dennison and David Ford) brings the querulous regulars of a skid-row bar to life both vividly and with real quasi-Depression-Era charm. She's a protean physical performer, seamlessly inhabiting the series of oddball outcasts lined up each day at Happy's before bartender Candy — two names as loaded as the clientele. After some hilarious expert summarizing of the dos and don'ts of bar culture, a story unfolds around a battered former boxer and his avuncular relationship with Candy, who tries to cut him off in light of his clearly deteriorating health. Her stance causes much consternation, and even fear, in his barfly associates, while provoking a dangerous showdown with the bar's self-aggrandizing sleazeball owner, Rico. With a love of the underdog and strong writing and acting at its core, Tipsy breezes by, leaving a superlative buzz. (Avila)
"Des Voix: Found in Translation Biennial 2014" Various venues, SF; www.desvoixfestival.com. Prices vary. Through May 25. In addition to Communiqué N°10 (listed above), this festival of contemporary French playwrights and cinema includes four new play translations, a "New Play Nightclub," film screenings, and more. Presented by Playwrights Foundation, Tides Theatre, Cutting Ball Theater, French International School, and the French Consulate of San Francisco.
Waxing West Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brava.org. $20. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 18. Brava! For Women in the Arts and RasaNova Theater present the West Coast premiere of Saviana Stanescu's tale of a Romanian mail-order bride haunted by her country's past.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-11. Sun, 11am. Extended through May 25. The popular, kid-friendly show by Louis Pearl (aka "The Amazing Bubble Man") returns to the Marsh.
Fences Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $37-58. Wed/7, 7:30pm; Thu/8-Sat/10, 8pm (also Sat/10, 2pm); Sun/11, 2 and 7pm. Marin Theatre Company performs August Wilson's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama, with an all-star cast of Bay Area talent: Carl Lumbly, Steven Anthony Jones, and Margo Hall.
Geezer Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. New show schedule: Wed, 8pm; Sat, 3pm. Extended through May 24. Geoff Hoyle moves his hit comedy about aging to the East Bay.
The Letters Harry's UpStage, Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $28-32. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through June 1. American playwright John W. Lowell's The Letters harkens back to Stalinist days and some unspecified ministry, where a dutiful staff goes about censoring the personal and openly homoerotic correspondence of an iconic Russian composer (Tchaikovsky). Directed by Mark Jackson for Aurora Theater's new upstairs black box, the two-hander unfolds in the small but tidy and dignified office belonging to the ministry's director (an imposing Michael Ray Wisely). He has summoned one of his employees, a widow named Anna (a taut Beth Wilmurt), for reasons not immediately clear to her or us. A careful dance around a minefield of protocol, sexual innuendo, and hidden agendas ensues, as a dangerous and deadly scandal surrounding the aforementioned letters makes itself felt. Given the Ukraine crisis, the ramping up of Cold War II, and Russia's increasing authoritarianism — including its new law against homosexual "propagandizing" in the cultural realm, and a Ministry of Culture vowing to withhold funding from art lacking in "spiritual or moral content" — it's all a remarkably timely little time warp. And Lowell's story is cleverly crafted for the most part. Unfortunately, the production's two capable actors have a hard time conveying a lifelike (if however strained) relationship or the perspiration-inducing tension the drama purports to carry. At the same time, the drama's dialogue, at least as played here, can stretch the bounds of verisimilitude by veering from flinty, cagey ducks and jabs to outright insubordination, sarcasm, and ineffectual blustering — the latter outbursts seeming to leave the pressure pot of the Great Terror far behind. It's still a long way from Tom and Jerry, but as a cat and mouse game the stakes, and the arc of the story, feel more fantastical then pressingly contemporary. (Avila)
Mutt: Let's All Talk About Race La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through June 8. Impact Theatre and Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company present the world premiere of Christopher Chen's political satire.
Nantucket Marsh Berkeley MainStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $25-100 (all tickets include a picnic dinner). Thu and Sat, 7pm. Through June 14. Acclaimed solo performer Mark Kenward presents his "haunting yet hilarious" autobiographical show about growing up on Nantucket.
Not a Genuine Black Man Osher Studio, 2055 Center, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $30-45. Wed, 7pm (no shows May 14, 21, or 28); Thu-Sat, 8pm (no shows Fri/9-Sat/10). Through May 31. Brian Copeland brings his acclaimed, long-running solo show to Berkeley Rep for a 10th anniversary limited run.
"Pear Slices" Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear, Mtn View; www.thepear.org. $10-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 25. Original short plays from the Pear Playwrights Guild.
Tribes Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-99. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm; no 2pm show May 18). Through May 18. Berkeley Rep performs Nina Raine's family drama about a young deaf man who comes of age.
Wittenberg Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Wed/7-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 2 and 7pm. Aurora Theatre Company performs David Davalos' comedy about reason versus faith.
"Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey" Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF; cargocollective.com/aliencitizen. Sat/10, 8pm. $12. Elizabeth Lang performs her solo show about her mixed heritage. Part of the United States of Asian America Festival 2014.
"Asian American StoryFest" Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF; ww.ethnohtec.org. Fri/9, 8pm. Also Sat/10, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 7pm (panel), 8pm, $10-20, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 Ninth St, Oakl. Seven nationally-recognized storytellers take the stage to perform Asian folk tales, myths, and contemporary stories. Part of the United States of Asian America Festival 2014.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sat/10, May 17, 25, June 17, 22, and 29, 6:15pm; Sun/11, 1pm. $15-19 (Sun/11, call for price). Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
Company C Contemporary Ballet Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; www.lesherartscenter.org. Thu/8-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 2pm. $25-48. With two world premieres by Maurice Causey and Charles Moulton.
"The Escapement" Joe Goode Annex, 401 Alabama, SF; theescapement.eventbrite.com. Fri/9-Sat10, 8pm. $15-25. Emerging choreographer Katharine Hawthone presents a new, evening-length work.
Feinstein's at the Nikko 222 Mason, SF; www.feinsteinssf.com. This week: Wesla Whitfield, Thu/8-Fri/9, 8pm, $30-45; Kim Nalley, Sat/10-Sun/11, 7pm, $30-45.
"The Fifth String: Ziryab's Passage to Cordoba" Brava Theatre Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.goldenthread.org. May 15-17, 8pm; May 18, 3pm. $15-22. Golden Thread continues its "Islam 101" performance series with this family-friendly play with live music.
"Golden Gate Dreams and Evil Schemes: Short Plays by Short People" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brava.org. Thu/8, 6:30pm; Fri/9, 7pm. $10-25. Professional actors and musicians perform six short plays written by fifth graders at Starr King Elementary School.
"Indulge" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Tue/13, 8-10pm. $50-150. This ODC Theater benefit features dinner with artists and choreographers, pop-up performances, and more.
"Jackie Beat: If You See Something, Say Something" Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat/10, 7 and 10pm. $25-30. Drag superstar Jackie Beat performs "hilarious new material and a sprinkling of tacky classics."
"Let's Get Nautical: A Mother's Day Yacht Rock Extravaganza" Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF; (415) 637-3386. Sun/11, 7-11pm. $10. Nautical-themed burlesque and disco-funk jams.
"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" DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; www.getmortified.com. Fri/9, 7:30pm. $21. Also Sat/10, 7:30pm, $20, Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. Fearless storytellers share their most adorably embarrassing childhood writings.
"Out of Line Improv" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; outoflineimprov.brownpapertickets.com. Sat, 10:30pm. $12. Ongoing. A new, completely improvised show every week.
"San Francisco Comedy College" Purple Onion at Kells, 530 Jackson, SF; www.purpleonionatkells.com. $5-10. "New Talent Show," Wed-Thu, 7. Ongoing. "The Cellar Dwellers," stand-up comedy, Wed-Thu, 8:15pm and Fri-Sat, 7:30pm. Ongoing.
Sara Bush Dance Project Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.dancemission.com. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 4 and 7pm. $23-50. The company performs Rocked By Women, an homage to the feminist movement.
Summation Dance and The Thick Rich Ones Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm. $15-25. The two companies — from New York, all-female troupe Summation Dance, and from Oakland, performance collective the Thick Rich Ones — join forces to present "Three."
"They Call Me Q" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.theycallmeq.com. Thu/8, 8pm; Sat/10, 2pm. $20-25. Qurrat Ann Kadwani performs her solo show, comprised of 13 characters. Part of the United States of Asian America Festival 2014.
"Thou Swell! Thou Witty! The Rodgers and Hart Salon" Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstmoon.org. Mon/12-Tue/13, 7pm. $45-70. Tony winner Faith Prince stars in 42nd Street Moon's celebration of the Rodgers and Hart songbook.
"Unbecoming MILF: Confessions of a Bi Butch Breeder" Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF; www.sexandculture.org. Sat/10, 7:30pm. $5-20. Lori Selke debuts her solo show.
"Uncertain Weather" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Sat/10-Sun/11, 1 and 4pm. ODC School/Rhythm and Motion Dance program presents this youth performance showcasing a variety of dance styles.
"Yerba Buena Gardens Festival" Yerba Buena Gardens, 760 Howard, SF; www.ybgfestival.org. Sun/10, 1pm. Free. Through Oct 26. This week: San Jose Taiko.
"Asian Pacific American Comedy" Pacific Pinball Museum, 1510 Webster, Alameda; www.pacificpinball.org. Sat/10, 7:30pm. $15. Stand-up comedy for adults with Josef Anolin, Lilybeth Helson, Justin Lucus, and Molly Sokhom.
Diablo Ballet Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium, 111 N. Wiget Lane, Walnut Creek; www.diabloballet.org. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm (also Sat/10, 2pm). $24-39. The company performs works by Val Caniparoli and George Balanchine, among others.
"First Annual Contemporary Performance Diasporas Festival" South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview, Berk; www.infernotheatre.org. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 6pm, $10-35 (festival pass, $30-50). Interdisciplinary and multi-cultural live ensemble and solo performances, presented by Inferno Theatre.
"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.
"3 Still Standing" Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; www.throckmortontheatre.org. Fri/9, 8pm. $23-35. Stand-up with Will Durst, Larry "Bubbles" Brown, and Johnny Steele.