August 21, 2002

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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, Brad Rosenstein, and Lara Shalson. See 8 Days a Week for information on how to submit items to the listings.

theater

Opening

My Dinner with Lunatique Fantastique New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $15-25. Previews Wed/21-Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 15. See 8 Days a Week, page 48.

PINS Walker Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-38 (Thurs/15, pay what you can). Previews Wed/21-Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sept 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, 2pm. Through Oct 13. The New Conservatory Theatre Center continues its Pride Season with Jim Provenzano's drama set in the world of high school wrestling.

Ongoing

American Buffalo Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; 433-7875. $20 (Thurs, pay what you can). Extended run: Thurs/22-Sat/24, 8pm. Three small-time crooks plan a robbery and philosophize on the nature of friendship in David Mamet's 1977 play. The action (if we can call a prolonged failure to do anything "action") takes place in a junk shop owned by Donny (Charles Brumm), where he and his buddy "Teach" (Richard Harder) plot to steal a valuable coin. Bobby (Joseph Silva), Donny's gofer, wants in on the action, but the two older men exclude him, half suspecting he might be trying to cheat them himself. Much of the emotional nuance is lost in this production because of a rather flat relationship between Donny and Bobby. However, Harder is excellent as Teach and really carries the play. (Shalson)

Are We Almost There? Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter; 345-7575. $12-15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. Travel is the theme of this musical comedy revue.

*Attempts on Her Life 312 Connecticut Theater, 312 Connecticut; 1-866-GOT-FURY. $12-25 (Sunday, pay what you can). Thurs-Sun, 8pm (Aug 31, show at 10pm instead). Through Sept 1. English playwright Martin Crimp's fascinating patchwork portrait of a (somehow familiar) nonentity makes its San Francisco debut in a smart and lively production by foolsFURY. Subtitled "17 Scenarios for the Theater," the unconventional narrative revolves around a mysterious no-show named "Annie" who, by all accounts, may be anything from a backpacking college grad to an international terrorist, perhaps even a sleek new car. In fact, Annie, variously interpreted by nameless associates, is a cipher around which swirls a kaleidoscope of prepackaged identities, an ominous mixture of victims and perpetrators. This inescapably Western vacuum of personality, while mocking a sense of giddy possibility, actually suggests something more akin to a postmodern prison cell, or Max Weber's "iron cage." FoolsFURY makes the most of its considerable strengths in plumbing this rich material. Ben Yalom's consistently intelligent staging and playful yet intense performances by the six-person cast well serve Crimp's penetratingly sardonic humor, offering much to chew on from start to finish and for some time after. (Avila)

Beyond Therapy Bulldog Theater, 965 Mission; 778-4050. $12-17. Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm. OneHeart Productions presents Christopher Durang's relationship comedy.

Carved in Stone Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 778-4077. $17-20. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Aug 31. In Jeffrey Hartgraves's new comedy, Carved in Stone, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, and Quentin Crisp all reside in a tasteful afterlife lounge. Joining these gay literary icons is the newly deceased Gryphon Tott (David Tenenbaum), a hot young writer who at first seems an ideal match for their company. But Gryphon is not all that he appears, and as successive layers of his true nature are revealed, the question of exactly why he has been elected to this exclusive club drives the play. This literary No Exit makes for a delectable premise, and Hartgraves has great fun eavesdropping on the tart bon mots of these überqueens as they enjoy an eternal happy hour. Director John Fisher shows admirable restraint, staying in tune with the play's piquantly playful wistfulness and providing an unshowy staging on Stephen Drew Ritchings's handsome clubby set. (Rosenstein)

Confessions of a Mormon Boy New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-38. Wed/21-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 2pm. Steven Fales struggled for years to overcome his SSA (that's "same sex attraction," in the clinical language of reparative heterosexual therapy) but was ultimately excommunicated from the Mormon Church anyway. In his solo show he tells the story of his life: a model Mormon boy who attended Brigham Young University and completed a two-year mission, who married a Mormon woman and became a father of two, all the while fighting through prayer and therapy to rid himself of his homosexual desires. The story is a poignant one, and unfortunately, an all too familiar one, but Fales's play is more than just a difficult coming-out story. As a trained actor with a lovely singing voice, Fales has enough charisma to keep us engaged and laughing, even when his story is predictable. It is the heartfelt honesty of his performance that makes this piece surprisingly moving. (Shalson)

Dreamlandia Thick House, 1695 18th St; 401-8081, www.thickdescription.org. $15-25 (previews, audience members paid $1 to attend). Thurs-Sun, 8pm (also Sat/25, 3pm). Through Sept 15. Thick Description opens its season with Octavio Solis's contemporary spin on Calderon De La Barca's Life is a Dream.

Of Mice and Men Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 533 Sutter; 296-9179. $15-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 31. Actors Theatre of San Francisco presents the John Steinbeck classic.

Off White Party Weekend Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St; 861-5079. $18-24. Thurs/22-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 7pm. The Half Baked Players present Robin Goldsmith, Garret Jon Groenveld, and John Morace's musical send-up of dot-coms and gay circuit parties.

Oleanna Next Stage Theater, 1620 Gough; 248-9371. $15. Fri-Sun, 8pm. Through Sept 1. Expression Theatre Ensemble presents David Mamet's tale of sexual misconduct.

'ReOrient 2002: A Festival of Short Plays about the Middle East' New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom; (510) 986-9194. $15. Thurs/22-Sun/25, 8pm. Golden Thread Productions presents its fourth annual festival of short plays exploring themes concerning, the Middle East. Series One (Thurs and Sat) includes Sewing in Syria, by Elizabeth Marquis; Such a Beautiful Voice is Sayeda's, by Yussef El Guindi; and Waves, by Torange Yeghiazarian. Series Two (Fri and Sun) includes A Friendly Face, by Laura McPherson; Dual-Use, by Victoria Stewart; From the Courtyard, by Catherine Fletcher; A Tunnel in Palestine, by Don Monaco; and Tamam, by Betty Shamieh.

Smaller Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa; 668-1962. $12-20 (sliding scale). Thurs/22-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 7pm. I-80 Productions presents Malachy Walsh's tale of two coworkers at a San Francisco ad agency.

*Stories by Tobias Wolff Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; 437-6775. $25 (Wed, pay what you can). Wed/21-Sat/24, 8:30pm; Sun/25, 3pm. Under this unassuming title, Word for Word triumphantly stages three tales from the oeuvre of the masterful short story writer. In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, directed by Sheila Balter, follows a frumpy, undistinguished academic (Susan Harloe) through a humiliating job interview at a snooty East Coast university. In a wonderful send-up of academic pomp, Wolff allows his underdog the last word and affirms the individual against vain intellectualism. Next, Stephanie Hunt directs Lady's Dream and Bullet in the Brain. The first explores love's necessary illusions, as a Southern belle (Nancy Shelby) and her overbearing husband (Joel Mullennix) reflect separately on their courtship many years before. In the final piece, a snide and pompous book critic named Anders (Paul Finocchiaro) is toppled in a bank line by his own uncontrollable penchant for sarcasm. The audience partakes of his final moments courtesy of Anders's corpus callosum. Throughout, intelligent, imaginative staging and fine ensemble performances (led by Word for Word stalwarts Harloe, Shelby, and Finocchiaro) mesh with Wolff's crystalline prose and playful wit to elicit our lively and unflagging interest. (Avila)

The Tale of the Allergist's Wife Curran Theatre, 445 Geary; 551-2000. $30-68. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed, Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 8. Straight from Broadway, Charles Busch's new farce features Valerie Harper as Marjorie, a New York Jewish housewife in the throes of a midlife crisis. In a posh Riverside Drive apartment, ceiling-high bookcases display weighty tomes to contrast with Marjorie's lightweight existence, while her successful allergist husband (Tony Roberts), who hasn't slowed a bit since retirement, devotes himself to a sinus center for the homeless. Meanwhile, from down the hall comes her mother (Shirl Bernheim) with an irritable bowel and a penchant for sharing. A series of funny if ribald jokes ensues (centered around the tail of the allergist's mother-in-law), which comically competes with Harper's high-tragedian self-flagellation and Roberts's faux-Albert Schweitzer. Enter Lee (Michele Lee), a long-lost childhood friend. A vivacious libertine and shameless name-dropper who takes credit for casually influencing the 20th century's more significant trends, Lee proves a temptress worthy of the maxim "Be careful what you wish for." The winning cast, under Manhattan Theatre Club's Lynne Meadow, makes contagious the fun they're clearly having. But Busch's script has a tossed-off feel, despite a steady stream of one-liners and one or two worthy twists. (Avila)

Unhampered by Sanity Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason; 841-1262. $15 (Thurs, pay what you can). Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 31. First Seen presents Kerry Reid's "punk-rock-meets-Dada comedic drama."

Bay Area

Death Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck, Berk. $10-14. Thurs/22-Sun/25, 8pm (also Sun/25, 2pm). Theater Absurd presents Woody Allen's one act comedy.

The King and I Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central, Alameda; (510) 864-2256. Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 2pm. Alameda Civic Light Opera performs the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

*Mata Hari Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381. $8-18. Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm (also Sat/24, 5pm). Central Works and Women in Time present the trial of the most notorious of female spies. Mata Hari (Jan Zvaifler), a Dutch-born exotic dancer and courtesan, reportedly traded sex for state secrets, passing them to the competing governments of France and Germany during WWI. The evidence was circumstantial, but then that's the beauty of a military tribunal (O infinite justice!). Writer-director Gary Graves sacrifices some drama to the minutiae of history, while offering a compelling account of what really led this fascinating figure to the firing squad. The truth unfolds during a heated interrogation conducted by Bouchardon (Louis Parnell), the obsessive French military prosecutor. Through a series of flashbacks, the proud, vain, decidedly cagey seductress gradually reveals a loyal heart beset by treachery and realpolitik. Zvaifler and Parnell charge every measured silence between them with a fervent chemistry, while John Patrick Moore and Jeff Wincek deftly deliver an array of lovers, admirers, and tormentors. Lauren Kaplan's elegant costumes lend the proceedings visual authority, while Gregory Scharpen's sound design supports a captivating atmosphere of nostalgia and menace. (Avila)

*San Francisco Mime Troupe's 'Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan' (415) 285-1717, www.sfmt.org. Free. Wed/21-Thurs/22, 7:30pm, Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main, Grass Valley. Sat/24-Sun/25, 3pm, San Lorenzo Park, Dakota Ave (downtown), Santa Cruz. Tues/27, People's Park, 6:30pm, Haste between Telegraph and Bowditch, Berk. Through Sept 2; check Web site for full schedule. Written by Josh Kornbluth (Haiku Tunnel) in collaboration with the troupe, Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan is a smart and humorous look at what happens to democratic ideals when profits are at stake. Jeff Smith is a Sept. 11 firefighter who's been sent to supervise a tiny desert nation's first democratic elections. However, it turns out that the elections are fixed ("Only an American could mistake a fixed election for a real one," candidate Ralif Nadir quips) and that the United States is supporting the corrupt government in order to gain control of Obscuristan's oil resources. On opening weekend the performance fell short of the troupe's usual polish, but there are plenty of much needed laughs and at least a few moments (Ed Holmes as Barbara Bush!) approaching brilliance. (Shalson)

The Seagull Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Gateway Blvd exit off Hwy 24, Orinda; (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org. $13-46. Tues-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through Sept 1. After a stumbling season to date, the California Shakespeare Festival has come roaring back to life with an inspired production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. The hardest thing to capture in Chekhov is the tone, a slippery blend of passion, humor, sadness, irony, and wisdom that is fiendishly difficult to get right. But director Jonathan Moscone and his excellent cast nail it, putting an emphasis on the humor that is neglected in far too many Chekhov productions. They are helped immeasurably by Tom Stoppard's deft translation, which brings a crisp wit and immediacy to scenes that are often muddily rendered. Riding the crest of that style are Susannah Schulman's superb Nina, traveling from youthful idealism to mature pragmatism in deft, moving strokes, Charles Dean's self-amused Sorin, Dan Hiatt's wry Dorn, Kandis Chappell's wily Arkadina, James Carpenter's devouring Trigorin, and Emily Ackerman's often hilariously frustrated Masha. (Rosenstein)

Triumph of Love Larkspur Café Theatre, 500 Magnolia, Larkspur; (415) 924-6107. $15-30. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 31. Hoochi-Doo Productions presents a musical adaptation of the Marivaux comedy.

Troilus and Cressida John Hinkel Park, Southampton between San Diego and Somerset, Berk; (510) 704-8210. Pay what you can. Sat-Sun, 5pm. Through Sept 1. It's not exactly surprising that this is one of Shakespeare's least popular plays. With more than 20 characters and several loosely intertwining plotlines that often seem unmotivated – partly due to gaps in the text and partly due to the fact that the characters themselves are unsure about their reasons – it's a difficult play to follow, to say the least. The love affair between Troilus and Cressida is straightforward enough, but it's almost a side note to the story of the Trojan War and some of its most celebrated warriors (the Greek Achilles and the Trojan Hector among them) that's also being told. Brushing up on the text beforehand (or at least reading the notes in the program), is worth the effort. The play does provide food for thought, making some valid points about the tragic absurdities of war, and the Shotgun Players' production is generally solid and enjoyable. (Shalson)

The Winter's Tale Memorial Park Amphitheater, Stevens Creek Blvd between Mary and North Stelling (across from De Anza College), Cupertino; www.sfshakes.org. Free. Fri-Sun, 7:30pm. At this location through Sun/25; check Web site for full schedule. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival celebrates 20 years of Free Shakespeare in the Park with a performance of the Bard's tale of jealousy and forgiveness.

dance

'Double Pleasure' Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; 345-7575. Fri-Sat, 8pm. $15-18. See Critic's Choice.

Mark Foehringer Dance Project Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard; 978-ARTS. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. $16-20. The contemporary ballet company presents a world premiere as part of its "Home Season 2002" program.

Paul Taylor Dance Company Yerba Buena Gardens, Fourth St at Mission; 543-1718. Sun, 2pm. Free. The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival hosts the modern dance company for this outdoor performance, which includes Dandelion Wine, Cloven Kingdom, and Arden Court.

'Yerba Buena Gardens Choreographers Festival' Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission at Fourth; 543-1717, www.ybgf.org. Wed-Fri, 12:30pm. Free. This free, outdoor series of dance concerts features Nancy Karp and Dancers and Paufve Dance (Wed), Rapt Performance Group and Kunst Stoff (Thurs), and inkBoat and Dance Brigade (Fri).

performance

'A Connecticut Yankee' Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness; 392-4400. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also, preview Wed, 8pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. $25-40. 42nd Street Moon presents Rodgers and Hart's musical, with Broadway performer Davis Gaines as the titular time traveler.

'Dance! Dance! Dance! Explosion!' Spanganga, 3376 19th St; 821-1102. Thurs, 9pm. $7. "All-girl boy band" 2Good4U leads up a variety show that pays tribute to both feminism and Russ Meyer.

'Fauxgirls!' Marlena's, 488 Hayes; 864-6672. Sat, 10pm. Free. Anjelica Devarox and Victoria Secret host a drag cabaret.

'Fuse' Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission; 554-0402. Sat-Sun, 8pm. $5-10 (no one turned away for lack of funds). The Jon Sims Center for the Arts presents a staged reading of Erin Blackwell's drama, based on France's real-life 1933 murder of a woman and her daughter by their two maids.

'A Fifth of Arsenic and Old Lace' Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy; 673-3847. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. $20. See 8 Days a Week, page 48.

'Short Leaps' Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 776-7427. Mon-Tues, 8pm. $10-20 (sliding scale). Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company (presenters of the Bay Area One-Acts Festival) hosts a minifestival of 19 short plays, all of which run 15 minutes or less.

'The Red Blanket Vignettes' Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St; 467-6782. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 31. $10. Rubber Match Seriez#5 presents three new one-act plays by Rey Carolino.

'Til Friday' Club Rendez-Vous, 1312 Polk; 309-CLUB. Fri, 10:30pm and midnight. Free. A cast of drag performers – including Cockatelia, Gypsy Calabrese, Sonfondaboyz, Manley Lennox, and Karen Kill – takes the stage; this week's theme is "Cheeseqiz Corncob, Trash, Trash, Trash."

'25th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival' Z Space Studio, 1360 Mission, third fl; 263-3986. $10 (suggested donation; festival pass $55-75). Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 11:30am and 3pm); Sun, 3 and 7pm. The Playwrights Foundation presents staged readings of seven new plays handpicked through a rigorous selection process.

'Waiting for the Podiatrist' Venue 9, 252 Ninth St; 289-2000. Wed/21-Fri/23 and Tues/27-Wed/28, 8pm. $8-15. Footloose presents Terry Baum's solo comedy about a woman dealing with her aging parents. Wed/21 proceeds benefit the Pat Bond Memorial Old Dyke Award; Fri/23 proceeds benefit Venue 9's Women's Work series.

'The Wild Party' Potrero Hill Neighborhood House Theatre, 953 De Haro; 1-877-350-3606, www.jericaproductions.com. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 1. $15. Jerica Productions and the Royal Underground perform the musical fable set in 1928 Manhattan.

Bay Area

'Dreamscape' San Geronimo Valley Cultural Center, 6350 Sir Francis Drake, San Geronimo Valley; (415) 488-9383. Fri, 8pm. $8. Julia Bernbaum performs an original dance-theater piece.

'Guys 'R Dolls' Glenview Performing Arts Center, 1318 Glenfield, Oakl; (510) 551-9785. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Ongoing. $39.95. A cast of drag divas performs, led by MC Brian Keith.

comedy

Bayfront Theater Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; www.BATSimprov.org. "BATS Improv Eighth Annual Festival": Thurs, 8pm: "By the Book," $8; Fri, 8pm: "Special Guest: Tonal Chaos," $12; Sat, 2:30pm: "Summer School Showcase: Sex and Violence," $5; 8pm: "S.F. vs. L.A. Theatresports Grudge Match," $12; Sun, 8pm: "Micetro," $6; Mon, 8pm (potential participants, show up at 6:45 for workout-audition): "Theatresports RAW," $8.

BrainWash Café 1122 Folsom; 861-3663. Thurs, 8pm: Comedy open mic hosted by Tony Sparks, free. Fri, 8:30pm: "All Women's Comedy Open Mic," with host Aundré the Wonderwoman, free.

The Field 524 Union; 377-1662. Wed, 8pm: "Comedy Club," with host Ian Jensen, $5.

Java Source 343 Clement; 387-8025. Fri, 10:30pm and Sat, 10pm: Comedy open mic hosted by Tony Sparks, free.

Luggage Store 1007 Market; 255-5971. Tues, 8pm: Comedy workshop with Tony Sparks, $3.

New Pisa 550 Green; 207-0285, www.northbeachimprov.com. Fri, 9pm: "North Beach Improv," with host Uncle Vinny Rizzo, $10.

San Francisco LGBT Community Center 1800 Market; 865-5633. Mon, 8pm: "Monday Night Gay Comedy" presents a special improv-themed show, with host Dana Cory, $8-15 (no one turned away for lack of funds).

The Stud 399 Ninth St; stoodupsf@hotmail.com. Wed, 8:30pm: "Stood Up," comedy night with hosts Pippi Lovestocking and Ronn Vigh, $5.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission; 978-ARTS, www.afrosolo.org. Sat, 8pm: "AfroSolo Arts Festival: An Explosion of Comedy," hosted by comedian Donald E. Lacy Jr.; proceeds benefit the Love Life Foundation youth violence prevention program, 8pm, $15-17.

Bay Area

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

Shoreline Amphitheatre One Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View; (415) 421-TIXS. Sat, 7pm: "The Doghouse Comedy Jam," with Willie Barcena, Dave Chappelle, Pablo Francisco, Eddie Griffin, Cain Lopez, Carlos Mencia, and Wanda Sykes, $49.50-59.50.

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: La Peña Cultural Center La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2566. "Café Poetry," with open mic and host Paul Flores, 8pm, $3-5. Mama Bears Women's Bookstore 6536 Telegraph, Oakl; (510) 506-3717. "SheSpeaks," open mic night for women 18 and over, 7:30pm, $5. Starry Plough 3101 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 841-2082. "The Berkeley Slam," with hosts Charles Ellik and dani eurynome, 8pm, $7. BrainWash Cafe 1122 Folsom; 864-3842. "Spoken Word Salon," open mic with host Diamond Dave Whitaker, 8pm, free.

Thursday: Café 1428 1428 Alice, Oakl; (510) 239-2239, ext 2899. "Poet Skool," open mic with host Paradise, 7pm, donations accepted. Dalva 3121 16th St; 647-6542."Poetry Mission," open mic hosted by Harvey, 7pm, free.

Friday: Café International 508 Haight; 552-7390. Open mic, 8pm, free.

Saturday: Berkeley Art Center 1275 Walnut, Berk; (510) 527-9753. "Rhythm and Muse," with Zigi Lowenburg and Raymond "Nat" Turner, plus open mic, 7pm, donations accepted.

Monday: Perry's Joint 1661 Fillmore; 931-5260. "Celebration of the Word," with Debra Khattab and Barbara Minton, plus host Jeanne Powell, 7pm, free. Rasselas Jazz (Fillmore) 1534 Fillmore; 346-8696. Open mic for instrumentalists, singers, and poets, featuring the Dee Spencer Trio, 8pm, free.

Tuesday: Falkirk Cultural Center 1408 Mission, San Rafael; (415) 485-3328. "The Marin Poetry Center Summer Traveling Show," with host Damon Peterson, 7pm, free.