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stage

Stage listings are compiled by Cheryl Eddy. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Sima Belmar, Rita Felciano, and Brad Rosenstein. Theater intern is Lara Shalson. See 8 Days a Week for information on how to submit items to the listings.

theater
Opening

'Classic Absurdity Theatre Festival' Venues: Exit Theatre, Exit Stage Left, and Exit Cafe, 156 Eddy; Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor; 673-3847, www.sffringe.org. Main-stage plays: $12-20. Open Wed/20, 8:30pm. Run Wed-Sat, 8:30pm. Through March 2. The main-stage plays in this festival are Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry (Exit Theatre); The Bald Soprano, by Eugene Ionesco (Exit Stage Left); and The Condemned Man's Bicycle, by Fernando Arrabal (Exit on Taylor). Other festival events: "Absurd Night Live," sketch comedy (through Sat/1; Fri-Sat, 10pm, Exit Cafe; $10); staged readings of The Chinese Wall (Sat/23, Exit Theatre), Low in the Dark (Sat/23, Exit Stage Left), Resounding Tinkle (Sat/2, Exit Theatre), and Picnic on the Battlefield (Sat/23, Exit Stage Left); all readings 7pm, donation requested.

Nu? Vaudeville: A Jewish Comedy Revue A Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida; 399-1809. $12.50-25 (Thurs, pay what you can). Previews Thurs/21-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 4pm. Opens Mon/25, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun/3 and March 10, 2 and 7pm; March 17 and 24, 4pm. Through March 24. Moshe Cohen, Sara Felder, Jeanette Lewicki, Karen Quest, and Dalia Vidor star in this show.

Peer Gynt Zeum Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, 221 Fourth St; 749-2228. Previews Tues/26-Wed/27, 8pm. Opens Thurs/28, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; March 10 and 16, 2pm. Through March 16. The American Conservatory Theater's MFA program presents the Henrik Ibsen classic.

The Piano Lesson Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter; 474-8800. Previews Wed/20, 8pm. Opens Thurs/21, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 17. The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre performs August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about an African American family in the 1930s.

Bay Area

The Golden State Transparent Theater, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 883-0305. $20 (Sun, pay what you can). Opens Thurs/23, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through March 24. Transparent Theater performs Tom Clyde's play that imagines a meeting between depressed Beach Boy Brian Wilson and the royal family of an underwater kingdom.

Ongoing

The All Night Strut New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $15-35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sun/3. The New Conservatory Theatre Center continues its "In Concert" series with this musical celebration of the 1930s and '40s.

Are We Almost There? Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter; 345-7575. $19-23. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 30. The musical comedy revue about traveling returns to the Shelton Theatre.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor; 512-7770. $34-77. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat-Sun, 2pm). Through March 10. See "Red Between the Lines," page 31.

*Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic Bannam Place Theater, 50 Bannam Place; 986-4607. $15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 23. Violently unhealthy relationships are the driving force behind Bruce Pachtman's hilarious solo show. Pachtman developed this autobiographical piece after dating a particularly incendiary woman. Psychotic is gut-bustingly funny, which is no small feat considering the seriousness of the material. (Joshua Medsker)

Down the Road Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa; 820-1460. Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm. Second Wind Productions presents Lee Blessing's play about a pair of married journalists hired to write a sensationalizing book about a serial killer.

Euphor!um Bldg 920, Mason St, Presidio (enter from Marina Blvd through Crissy Field gate); 332-9454. $15. Thurs, 6-10pm; Fri-Sat, 7-11:30pm; Sun, 3-7pm. Extended through March 24. Antenna presents its interactive journey through Samuel Taylor Coleridge's opium-inspired poem "Kubla Khan."

The Eviction Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; 441-8822. $10-37. Wed-Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 2:30pm (also Sun/24 and March 3, 7:30pm). Through Sun/3. See "Slightly Unglued," page 38.

*Five Flights Thick House, 1695 18th St; 401-8081. $15-20. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Extended through March 10. Five Flights is a fable of faiths in collision, each of its characters desperately looking for something or someone to believe in. Kent Nicholson crafts a gem of presentational staging in perfect sync with playwright Adam Bock's self-conscious structure. Unfortunately, the play loses steam as it strains toward a conclusion of difficult grace. Still, Bock remains a tremendously exciting talent, and you couldn't ask for a better production than this one by the Encore Theatre Company. (Rosenstein)

Frank Olivier's Twisted Cabaret and Pandemonium Vaudeville Show Mason Street Theatre, 340 Mason; 982-5463. $30-42. Thurs, 8pm; Fri, 8:30pm; Sat, 5:30 and 9pm; Sun, 3:30pm. Open-ended. See "Slightly Unglued," page 38.

In Love and Sex Next Stage, 1620 Gough; 673-0304, ext 3. $15-20. Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm. Combined Art Form Entertainment's latest production is a trio of literary adaptations exploring erotic themes. The program include A Defense of the Social Contracts, Dan Wilson's adaptation of Martha Soukup's chilly tale of passion in an antiseptic future; Our Secret, adapted from an Isabel Allende story, which eloquently ruminates on the memories and vulnerabilities of bodies; and the final piece, adapted by the company from The Erotica Project, by Lillian Ann Slugocki and Erin Cressida Wilson, which unleashes a flood of raunchy, bittersweet female fantasies. It's an uneven evening, but it's a pleasure to see sex addressed maturely, with both steamy honesty and nonexploitative visual flair. (Rosenstein)

Kiss of the Spider Woman Phoenix Theater, 653 Geary; 642-1257. $10-15. Thurs/21-Sat/23, 8pm. Bare Bones Theatre Company kicks off its 2002 season with Manuel Puig's play.

Kiss Me Kate Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market; 512-7770. $34-76. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat-Sun, 2pm). Through Sun/3. It's hard to believe anyone could make a ho-hum evening out of one of the all-time great musicals, but the touring production of Kiss Me, Kate at the Orpheum Theatre is sadly less than stellar. While director Michael Blakemore's Broadway revival took home a crate of Tonys, this road show suffers from some critical deficits. Chief among them is Rex Smith in the lead; he simply seems inadequate for the role's demands. Rachel York does fine if uneven work as Lilli, but without a partner of equal chops, neither she nor the show can fly the way they should. Jenny Hill as Lois is alone in consistently hitting the mark. (Rosenstein)

Legion New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-35. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun/24, March 10, 24, 31, 2pm. Through April 6. In Hal Corley's play, premiering at New Conservatory Theatre Center, the seemingly happily married Jonah (Randel Hart) and his married-with-children acquaintance Sylvester (Jeff Castle) secretively pursue an affair. Over the course of the play's 13-year span, we meet a number of other men who are similarly tormented by their double lives. The play begins well, immersing us in Sylvester and Jonah's awkward negotiations and vulnerabilities, but soon their relationship is over, and the focus shifts to other "members of the club," like the wildly promiscuous Burton (Markham Miller), who is out to everyone but his wife. Corley is a talented writer who knows how to get dramatic sparks flying, but the evening is dominated by the flamboyantly funny Burton, who rushes into the vacuum of the Sylvester-Jonah relationship and takes over the play. (Rosenstein)

Love's Fire and Talk to Me like the Rain and Let Me Listen New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom; 731-6027. $15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Sun/3. La Vache Enragée presents a program of one-acts inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets, preceded by Tennessee Williams's Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. In all, it's ideal fare for this Valentine season, though the evening delivers every heart-shaped candygram's mixture of treats and disappointments. Following an uneven, largely pallid rendering of the Williams play, Marsha Norman's 140, a Sonnet 140 as lovers' merry-go-round, proves even less rewarding. To the rescue comes Tony Kushner's comedy Terminating, about an ambivalent analysand and his suicidal shrink. Kushner's brilliant volubility soars thanks to Brian Katz's sure direction and spot-on performances by Morris Naish and Wendy Taylor. Other highlights include Ntozake Shange's "choreo-poem" Hydraulics Phat like Mean, a kinetic courtship performed by Rami Margron and Michael Clark, directed by Dimitrios Escobar; and Eric Bogosian's Bitter Sauce, a farcical love triangle after Sonnet 118, gamely rendered by Naish, Durand Ford, and Jennifer Dean. Finally, in John Guare's The General of Hot Desire, drama students grope toward Sonnets 153 and 154 by reenacting a biblical tale of lost innocence – a clever concept that comes across as somewhat precious, despite Katz's nimble direction. (Avila)

Megan's Skin Shotwell Studios, Studio A, 3252A 19th St; 467-6782. Call for price. Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm. RubberMatchSeriez#4 and Footloose at Shotwell Studios present Rey Carolino's backstage play about a Northern Ireland community-theater group's production of Othello.

Mission Indians Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia; 626-3311. $9-15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (special actor's benefit March 11, 8pm). Through March 11. Campo Santo + Intersection present the world premiere of Greg Sarris's play about three generations of mixed-race California Indians.

The Mystery of Irma Vep, a Penny Dreadful New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-35. Wed/20-Sat/23, 8pm. Charles Ludlam's comic, gothic farce, presented by the New Conservatory Theatre Center, is a two-actor play filled with multiple characters, zany gags, costumes, and fast-paced action.

*The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe Theatre on the Square, 450 Post; 433-9500. $35-50. Wed-Thurs, Tues/26, 8pm (no show Thurs/28); Fri-Sat (no show Fri/1), 8:30pm; Sat-Sun, 3pm (also Sun, 7:30pm). Extended through March 31. Sixteen years after her play's first appearance, Jane Wagner's script still ranks among the most brilliant theater writing of recent decades. Its 13-character universe still crackles with the breadth of its thought, humor, and compassion. Lily Tomlin remains a spot-on powerhouse, etching seamless worlds with the vocal and gestural versatility of a master. (Rosenstein)

Serial Murderess: A Play in Three Axe Venue 9, 252 Ninth St; 289-2000. $12-15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Mon/4, 8pm; March 10, 3pm). Through March 30. Amanda Moody's popular show about three bloodthirsty women returns for its third run at Venue 9.

Ten Day Soup The Marsh, 1062 Valencia, 826-5750. $10-15 sliding scale. Wed/20, 8pm. A performance experiment written by Charles Varon and David Ford, performed by Varon.

This Is Our Youth Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 533 Sutter; 296-9179. $18-25. Thurs/21-Sat/23, 8pm. Actors Theatre of San Francisco presents Kenneth Lonergan's play about three young people caught between adolescence and adulthood in 1982 Manhattan.

The Yoga of Moby-Dick The Marsh, 1062 Valencia; 826-5750, www.ticketweb.com. $9-18. Opens Thurs/14, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through March 16. Mark Kenward's solo play pursues the connections between Melville's novel and hatha yoga. Sundays, an optional yoga class (included in $18 admission) precedes the performance at 1:30pm.

Bay Area

*Culture Clash in AmeriCCa Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949. $10-54. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through March 10. Bringing together material from the group's various site-specific shows, such as Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami and Nuyorican Stories, Culture Clash's new show is an inspired transnational quilt that delivers a razor-sharp satirical picture of la vida loca we're all living now. The piece also shows an affecting understanding of what America can be, intercutting the clear-sighted ruminations of an exiled Marine with the naturalization of two immigrants. In AmeriCCa concludes with new material on Berkeley, including a haunted encounter in People's Park that achieves a darker, richer, more complex tone than any of Culture Clash's work to date. (Rosenstein)

The Mandrake Root San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose; (408) 367-7255. $20-44. Wed/20-Sat/23, 8pm (also Sat/23, 3pm); Sun/24, 2 and 7pm. After the death of her father, Sally (Cynthia Mace) brings her mother, Rose (Lynn Redgrave, also the playwright), to southern California from England. Rose's shaky mental state begins to collapse, and she ranges freely across her past, revealing aspects of her life that Sally had only suspected. If Redgrave is still finding her way as a dramatist, she has a theater veteran's grasp of character and action, and although the play's literary allusions fail to resonate, the language is sharp and crisp. (Rosenstein)

The Memory of Water Oakland YWCA, 1515 Webster, Oakl; (510) 436-5085. $5-19. Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 10. TheatreFIRST performs Shelagh Stephenson's comedy about three grown-up sisters who are reunited at their mother's funeral.

'Night, Mother La Val's Subterranean Theatre, 1834 Euclid, Berk; (510) 496-1269, ext 1950. $8-12. Fri/22, 8pm. Princess Productions presents Marsha Norman's drama.

Rhinoceros Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949. $16-42. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/23, Thurs/28, March 9, 2pm); Sun and Wed, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through March 10. Eugène Ionesco's most famous play gets a major remounting at Berkeley Rep. You'd think this absurdist diatribe against conformity would be remarkably resonant in a time when the herd mentality seems to rule, but unfortunately this production, employing a bland translation-adaptation of the play by Allen Kuharski and Georges Moskos, never takes off. (Rosenstein)

Run Perfectly Still Mills College, Lisser Hall, 5000 MacArthur, Oakl; (510) 534-9529. $12-15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sun/3. In honor of Black History Month, Oakland Public Theater presents the world premiere of Wendy Belden's Civil War-era play about the strange relationship between a plantation mistress and her slave.

dance

'Dancing Downtown 2002' Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission; 978-2787. Feb 21-March 10. This week: "Opening Night Celebration," with Kimi Okada's Sauce for the Goose, Brenda Way's Raking Light, and KT Nelson's Walk Before Talk, followed by a reception with ODC choreographers, dancers, and collaborators (Thurs/21, 7pm, $35-75); "Program One," with Raking Light, Walk Before Talk, Brenda Way's Spectral Evidence, and live music by the Cypress String Quartet (Fri/22, March 9, 8pm; March 10, 7pm; $15-38); "Program Two" with Sauce for the Goose, KT Nelson's Running Into Open Doors, and Brenda Way's 24 Exposures (Sat/23, Fri/1-Sat/2, 8pm; $15-38). For full schedule go to www.odcdance.org.

'San Francisco Ballet 2002 Repertory Season' War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness; 865-2000. Program Three: Opens Tues/26, 8pm. Runs Wed/27, 7:30pm; Thurs/28-Sat/2, 8pm (also Sat/2-Sun/3, 2pm). $10-120. Program Three is a full-length production of Othello.

'Vision Series 2002' Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; 345-7575. Sun, 3-5pm; 7-9pm. $10-20. Dance Repertory/San Francisco presents a two-part showcase-performance festival with groups from local high schools, colleges, and professional companies.

Bay Area

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph, Berk; (510) 642-9988. Program A: Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Program B: Wed and Fri, 8pm. Program C: Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 2pm. $24-48. Year after year this company fills Zellerbach Hall with a multiethnic audience the likes of which you don't see many other places. This year, Program A pays tribute to athlete Florence Griffith Joyner (Here ... Now) and anonymous teenagers whose hormones tell them they gotta move (Dance at the Gym). Program B's centerpiece is Alonzo King's glorious Following the Subtle Current Upstream. Program C offers a medley of Ailey excerpts and his masterpiece Cry. Perennial favorite Revelations is included in Programs A and C. (Felciano)

performance

'Afterglow: A Castro Cabaret' Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market; 861-7067. Fri-Sat, 7pm. $12. The oldest mixed lesbian-gay chorus in the country performs a concert of diverse music to raise funds for a trip to Australia for the 2002 Gay Games.

'Da Chitlin' Circuit Live!' Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St; 292-5157 or 550-8541. Fri, 7pm. $20-25. In celebration of Black History Month, this musical event pays tribute to R&B and soul music of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, followed by an after party with a soul food dinner.

'848's 10th Anniversary Celebration' 848 Community Space, 848 Divisadero; 922-2385. Fri-Sun, 8pm, $10-20 (no one turned away for lack of funds). See Critic's Choice.

'Garden of Fucking Delight' Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero; www.xenodrome.com. Sat, 9pm. $25-30. Women and FTMs only. Debauchery livedykesextheater and Fuckingmachines.com present this "theatrical exhibition of hot sex, haunting choreography, sexy women, and 350 RPMs of penetrating machinery."

'Gary and Babs' Odeon Bar, 3223 Mission; 550-6994. Fri, 6pm. Ongoing. Call for price. The lounge duo performs happy-hour favorites.

'Illumiere' Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market; 861-5016. Tues, 9pm-2am. This "movement and art exhibition" brings DJs, artists, and audience together in an interactive performance.

Mimi Blais Location is private home; for information, (408) 395-7279. Sat-Sun, 2 (also Sat, 7:30). $20. The "New Queen of Ragtime" takes to the piano for songs by Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, and more.

'Monday Night Marsh' 1062 Valencia; 826-5750. Mon, 8pm. $7. This week's performers are Sue Peters, Heather Rogers, Felicia Solomon, and Jack Toolin.

'Paul Hull is the Malajusted Songster!' Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter; 885-2800. Mon-Tues, 8pm. Call for price. The British cabaret performer presents a comedic evening of songs by Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, and others.

'Puppet Thursday' Odeon Bar, 3223 Mission; 648-8627. Thurs, 9pm. $5. This week's featured groups are Dr. Abacus, Puppets and Pie, and Four Frou Ha.

'Scabaret: A Neo-Industrial Circus Jazz Opera' Voodoo Lounge, 2937 Mission; 285-3369. Sun, 8pm. $10. The performance group brings its unique brand of music, theater, and dance to the stage.

'Silence within the Darkness: The Life of Joaquin Roderigo' City College of San Francisco, Diego Rivera Theatre, 50 Phelan; 239-3132. Fri/22-Sat/23, Sat/2, 8pm; Sun/3, 2pm. $5-10. Cecelia Gaerlan's play explores the life of blind Spanish composer-guitarist Joaquin Roderigo.

'Skin on the Pudding (or Sugar Sugar)' Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission; 554-0402. Fri, 8pm. $5-10 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Artist in residence Dominique Zeltzman takes on depression and recovery via dance, trapeze, and storytelling.

'Til Friday' Club Rendez-vous, 1312 Polk; 309-CLUB. Fri, 10:30pm and midnight. Free. 'DragPie' Marlena's, 488 Hayes; 864-6672. Fri, 10:30pm and midnight. Free. A cast of drag performers – including Cockatelia, Gypsy Calabrese, Sonfondaboyz, Manley Lennox, and Karen Kill – performs; this week's theme is "The Booze and the Boyz. Belly Up to the Bar."

'Triumph of the Human Spirit' Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, 2041 Larkin; 776-4910. Sun, 4pm. Free. This performance explores the historical legacy of the African slave trade through music, spoken word, and prayer.

Bay Area

'All Stars Talent Show Network' Fremont High School, 4610 Foothill, Oakl; www.bacic.org. Sat, 3pm. $8. The antiviolence cultural program All Stars Talent Show Network presents a performance by Oakland youth ages 5 to 25.

'CJ' Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakl; (415) 586-2769. Sun, 2 and 8pm. $10-20. The Levlori Plays and Projects Ensemble present Lora M. Traveler's theatrical biography of Madame CJ Walker, one of the country's first African American millionaires.

'Free Men! Free Women!' First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing, Berk; (510) 814-9584. Fri-Sat, 8pm. $12. Wing It! Performance Ensemble presents a night of free dance, song, and storytelling.

'Rock-a-My Soul: A Celebration of African American Spirituals and Folktales' Richmond Museum of History, 400 Nevin, Richmond; (510) 235-7387. Sun, 2pm. Free. This family event features interactive storytelling and sing-alongs.

'Sight and Sound' 21 Grand, 21 Grand Ave, Oakl; (510) 444-7263. Fri, 9pm. $7-10. This series highlights audio and visual collaborations and features work by Roddy Schrock, Dean Santomieri, Randy Nordschow, and Chevron.

comedy

Art's Coffee Shop 138 Church; 951-2448. Wed, 8pm: "Castro Comedy," with host "Crippled Comic" Bob Douglas, donations accepted (no one turned away for lack of funds).

Bayfront Theater Fort Mason Center, Building B, Third fl, Marina at Laguna; 474-8935. Thurs, 8pm: "The Belfry: Triple Play," $7. Fri-Sat, 8pm: "Three for All," $12. Sun, 8pm: "Micetro," $6.

Bindlestiff Studio 185 Sixth St; 974-1167. Wed, 8pm: "Pull My Finger," stand-up comedy, $5-10.

Cobb's Comedy Club Cobb's Comedy Club, 2801 Leavenworth; 928-4320. Wed, 8pm: "All-Pro Comedy Showcase," $7. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Fri-Sat, 10pm): Jim Short, Sabrina Matthews, and Tony Dijamco, $10-13.

848 Community Space 848 Divisadero; 541-5610. Mon, 8:30pm: "Qcomedy presents Monday Night Gay Comedy," with host Regina Stoops and Lisa Geduldig, John Doyle, Heather Gold, Dana Cory, Jeff Krysler, and Bridget Schwartz, $8 (no one turned away for lack of funds).

New Langton Arts 1246 Folsom; 789-8370. Mon, 8pm: The Original Action Pack performs improv comedy, $5.

One World Cafe 1799 McAllister; 776-9358. Fri, 7:30pm: open mic with host Corrine Petteys, free.

Rasselas 1534 Fillmore; 921-2051. Sat, 7pm: "All Black Comedy Showcase," with Yayne Abeba, Tony Sparks, and others, free.

Spanganga 3376 19th St; 821-1102. Thurs, 10pm: "Spiegelmania," stand-up comedy show, hosted by Mike Spiegelman and featuring Gretchen Rootes, Lesli Cholar, and "the world's first all girl boy band," 2 Good 4 U, $5. Fri, 8pm: "Please Leave the Bronx in Hearbeard II: Revenge of the Razor," sketch comedy, $7 (through March 29); 10pm: "They Call Me Shitshoes," prankster and comedian Harmon Leon's solo show inspired by his real-life experiences as a ventriloquist, birthday-party clown, and more, $10. (Also Thurs, 8pm, 21 Grand, 21 Grand Ave, Oakl; (510) 444-7263. $5-10.) Sat, 8pm: Human beat box Yuri Lane performs "Sound Track City," $10; 10pm: "Ha Bloody Ha" comedy and variety show, hosted by Harmon Leon, $7.

Bay Area

Black Box 1928 Telegraph, Oakl; (510) 595-5597. Thurs, 8pm: The Oakland Playhouse improv troupe performs improv comedy, $5.

Dwinelle Hall Rm 145, UC Berkeley, Berk; (510) 644-0326. Fri, 8:30pm: "The GWOD Squad" sketch comedy, $2.

spoken word

Open mics take place almost every night in cafés throughout the Bay Area. If you want to perform, show up about half an hour before start time to put your name on the list. A day-by-day guide to word events and featured readers:

Wednesday: Mama Bears Women's Bookstore 6536 Telegraph, Oakl; (510) 506-3717. "SheSpeaks," open mic night for women 18 and over, 7:30pm, $5. La Peña Cultural Center 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2572. "Word and Sing," with host Paul Flores and featured readers Leticia Hernandez and Luis Rodriquez, 8pm, $5-8. Cody's Books 2454 Telegraph, Berk; (510) 845-7852. "Poetry Flash," with Linda Elkin and Steve Rood, 7:30pm, $2. Starry Plough 3101 Shattuck; (510) 841-2082. "Berkeley Slam!," hosted by Charles Ellik and dani eurynome, with featured readers Second2Last and Monica Copeland, 8pm, $5. BrainWash Cafe 1122 Folsom; 864-3842. "Spoken Word Salon" open mic, with host Diamond Dave Whitaker and featured reader Eula Bliss, 8pm, free.

Thursday: Café 1428 1428 Alice, Oakl; (510) 239-2239, ext 2899. "Poet Skool!" open mic, with featured reader Ramu Aki and host Paradise Freejahlove, 7-10pm, free. Brava Theater Center 2781 24th St; 641-7657, ext 3. "A Special Evening with Luis Rodriguez and Our Youth," poetry reading, 7pm, $5-10 (no one turned away for lack of funds).

Friday: Cafe International 508 Haight; 552-7390. "Open Myc Series," with featured reader Tyren McElwee, 7:30pm, free. Yakety Yak Coffee House 679 Sutter; 285-2951. Open mic and featured reader Khalad Hosseini, 7:30pm, free. Mission Cultural Center 2868 Mission; 252-4655. WritersCoprs presents poets from Everett Middle School, 7pm, call for price.

Saturday: Coffee with a Beat 458 Perkins, Oakl; (510) 526-5985. "Word Beat Reading Series," with featured readers Kathleen Dunbar and Selene Steese, plus open mic, 7-9pm, free. Berkeley Art Center 1275 Walnut, Berk; (510) 527-9753. "Rhythm and Muse" open mic, with featured reader Valentine Pierce, 7pm, free.

Sunday: Café Royal 800 Post; www.youthspeaks.org. "Strictly Slam," hosted by Nazelah Jamison, 8pm, $6.

Monday: Notes from Underground Café 2399 Van Ness; 928-8904. "Celebration of the Word," with featured readers Madeline Moore and Tressa Berman and host Jeanne Powell, 7pm, free. Café de la Paz 1600 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 843-0662. "Poetry Nitro" performance showcase, featuring Abdul Kenyatta, plus open mic and host Paradise Freejahlove, 8pm, free. Rasselas 1534 Fillmore; 346-8696. Open mic for instrumentalists, singers, and poets, featuring the Dee Spencer Trio, 8pm, free.

Tuesday: The Beanery 2925 College, Berk; (510) 549-9093. "The Whole Note" poetry series, with Avotcja and host Jesse Beagle, 7pm, free. Andalusia Café 1209 Sutter; 928-8904. "Word Dancing" open mic, with hosts Leonard King and Jeanne Powell, 7-9pm, free. Doe Library UC Berkeley, Morrison Library, Berk; (510) 642-0137. Berkeley faculty and staff read "poetry of the Near East," 12:10pm, free.