November 27, 2002
Arts and Entertainment
Stage listings are compiled by Cheryl Eddy. Performance times may change; call venues to confirm. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Rita Felciano, Lara Shalson, and Chloe Veltman. See 8 Days a Week for information on how to submit items to the listings.
Too Many Girls Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 255-8207. $15-27. Previews Wed/27, 8pm and Fri/28, 2pm. Opens Fri/29, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 15. 42nd Street Moon presents the Rodgers and Hart collegiate comedy.
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.
The A**hole Monologues Exit Theater, 156 Eddy; 931-1094. $15-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no shows Thurs/28-Sat/30). Through Dec 14. Mr. Bagel Productions' show features a variety of performers expressing their thoughts on backsides. Proceeds benefit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
The Bombay Trunk New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no shows Thurs/28, Dec 25); Sun, 2pm. Through Jan 5. The New Conservatory Theatre Center presents the world premiere of Felice Picano's mystery comedy.
*Cirque du Soleil Presents Varekai "Grand Chapiteau," parking lot of Pacific Bell Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza; 1-800-678-5440. $31.50-70. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs-Sat, 4pm; no show Dec 17); Sun, 1 and 5pm. Through Dec 22. I am so out of shape. Cirque du Soleil sets its latest venture in the imaginary land of Varekai (actually the Romany gypsy word for "wherever"), where a loose fairy-tale plot involving a gilded forest full of creatures ranging from the hauntingly beautiful to the frankly bizarre brackets a series of undeniably amazing and imaginative feats of strength, agility, and nerve. There are some delightful comedic sketches in the mix too, of course. The all-encompassing reach of the spectacle under the big blue top, set to a live and catchy Euro-pop score, sometimes makes it difficult to take everything in, but wherever you look you can't help but be impressed. What George Lucas gets his creations to do with special effects these people just do. Aesthetically, one would only begin to describe it as Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Terry Gilliam go to the Renaissance fair. A serious treat. (Avila)
The Food Chain New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $15-25. Wed/27-Sat/30, 8pm; Sun/1, 2pm. In The Food Chain, playwright Nick Silver's farce about hasty marriages and one-night stands, a bunch of hyperactive stereotypes perpetrate every body-type cliché in the book. From the anorexic, high-strung poet, Amanda, to the 300-pound, gay, Jewish loser, Otto, The Food Chain never takes us beyond the most superficial understanding of the mechanics of human relationships. Subtlety does not enter the vocabulary of the play, and director Christopher Jenkins doesn't make space for it in his histrionic production. The lines are screamed, Fritos fly about the stage, and the actors frequently fall off the furniture. The Food Chain has two endings a light one and a dark one, and Unidentified Theatre Company alternates between them from performance to performance. As the author of the slick black comedy Raised in Captivity, Silver has proved he can do noir. Perhaps seeing The Food Chain on a "dark" night might help adjust the flavor of this otherwise overcooked production. (Veltman)
*Hedwig and the Angry Inch Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St; 863-7576. $20-40. Wed-Sun, 8pm (also Sat, 11pm). Open-ended. See "Glorious Glam," page 46.
*It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life Bannam Place Theater, 50A Bannam Pl; 986-4607, www.wonderfullife.org. $15-20. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 29. Fred Raker's 25-in-one-man show back after a successful run last year charts the despair of aspiring Jewish comedian Phil Resnick, who winds up pigeonholed on public television while the life he could have had goes to an Anglo American-ized colleague, the host of TV's What's Up with That, America? The crisis provokes a little divine intervention by Phil's guardian angel, Jack Benny. Based on Raker's own brush with stardom as well as the Capra classic, this very funny solo performance cleverly weaves Jewish identity and self-doubt into nothing less than a wonderful 75 minutes. (Avila)
*Lackawanna Blues Geary Theater, 415 Geary; 749-2228. $11-49. Wed/27 and Sun/1, 2 and 7pm; Fri/29-Sat/30, 8pm (also Sat/30, 2pm). Tony Award-winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson grew up in Lackawanna, N.Y., under the wing of boardinghouse proprietor Rachel "Nanny" Crosby, the saintlike hero of his celebrated solo show. The sharp and personable Santiago-Hudson keeps himself largely on the sidelines of his reminiscences, giving center stage to his beloved guardian and about 20 deftly drawn characters from the community of drifters and strays at 32 Wasson Ave. Director Loretta Greco helps ensure they all come through seamlessly, with impeccable timing, subtle emotion, and good humor. (Avila)
The Men from the Boys New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972. $18-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no show Thurs/28); Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 8. Mart Crowley's long-awaited sequel to The Boys in the Band finds the famous circle of seven gay men (minus one) firmly in middle age, again assembled at Michael's New York penthouse apartment, this time for a memorial. Crowley has Larry die of cancer, not AIDS, bent on avoiding certain traps even as he struggles to draw a bead on his characters three decades after Stonewall. But the attempt to move things forward by focusing on the trials of aging (three twentysomethings help measure the generation gap) doesn't get very far, while the vituperative wit and climactic tongue-lashings of the original reemerge fitfully at best. (Avila)
Puppetry of the Penis New venue: Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary; 478-2277. $39.50-44.50. Tues-Thurs, 8pm; Fri-Sun, 7pm (also Fri-Sat, 9:30pm). Open-ended. Aussies Simon Morley and David Friend bring their bare-bones, antierotic testicle spectacle to San Francisco: an endless series of juvenile contortions with titles like the Hamburger, the Didgeridoo, and the Boomerang, accompanied by limp showbiz banter. There's nothing surprising about the origins of the show in an Australian pub act, two genial blokes lampooning highbrow sophisticates with a series of "genital origami installations" (a.k.a. "dick tricks"), but the one-joke premise treating it as an "art" can't hide the fact that as entertainment it's even more of a stretch. (Avila)
R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida; 626-DOME, www.foghouse.com. $20-40 (first Wed of each month, pay what you can). Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm); Sun, 2pm. Open-ended. D. W. Jacobs's R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe is bursting with so many ideas that it's almost impossible to contain them within the confines of the stage. Fuller was one of the great brainiacs of the 20th century, a philosopher, mathematician, inventor, and idealist who devoted his life to finding the best fit between nature and humanity. In Jacobs's fitful, two-hour monologue based on the life and writings of Fuller, actor Ron Campbell dexterously pings from one of the visionary's obsessions to another. Whether rattling through a dense explanation of atomic structure, proselytizing about how famine will become extinct as humans do "more and more with less and less," or espousing the joys of parenting, Campbell inhabits Fuller's eccentric soul with physical and verbal intensity at times so much so that the margins between performance and lecture blur. (Veltman)
Rent Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market; 512-7770. $40-60. Wed/27, Fri/29-Sat/30, 8pm (also Fri/29-Sat/30, 2pm; Sun/1, 2 and 7pm. The popular Broadway musical returns.
7 Sins: The Holiday Edition Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; 820-3947. $20-25. Sat, 10:30pm; Sun, 5 and 8pm. Through Dec 15. A revolving cast of seven perform comedy monologues drawn from real-life experiences. Saturday shows are a racier version of the regular show, dubbed "Confessions in My Underwear!"
Show Ho Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St; 861-5079. $15-25. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (also Sun/1, 3pm). Through Dec 7. Writer-performer Sara Moore is, as a former Ringling Brothers employee, licensed to clown. Popping back and forth between a number of characters, mostly carnies, our host is the excruciatingly nervous, gender-ambiguous Hell's Kitchenette Rhonda Hammerstein. Scrunch browed and wide eyed, responding like a sea anemone to every tremor from the audience, Rhonda tells us how she came to accept who she was (and lose her virginity) among a community of clowns embracing their freakishness and otherwise making a virtue of difference. Along the way we get a couple of songs from Moore's able lungs, including the delightful "When Everyone Fun Is Dead." (Avila)
The Time of Your Life Next Stage, 1620 Gough; 333-6389. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no shows Thurs/28, Dec 14); Dec 14, 2pm. Through Dec 21. Multi Ethnic Theater presents William Saroyan's comedy-drama.
Working for the Mouse Exit Cafe, 156 Eddy, S.F.; (510) 464-4468. $7-12. Fri-Sat, 8:30pm (no shows Fri/29-Sat/30). Through Dec 14. Impact Theatre presents Trevor Allen's solo comedy about working at Disneyland.
Young Zombies in Love Venue 9, 252 Ninth St; (510) 982-0433. $12-15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no shows Thurs/28-Sat/30). Through Dec 7. Emerald Rain Productions present a pop-rock musical comedy about a love affair from beyond the grave.
Alarms and Excursions Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822. $28-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 22. See "Glorious Glam," page 46.
Cannery Row (Chapters 1-7) Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (415) 437-6775. $25 (Wed, pay what you can). Wed/27, Fri/29-Sat/30, 8:30pm; Sun/1, 5pm. Question: When is a play, immaculately performed by a strong cast with evocative use of scenery, sound and light, not a play? Answer: when it's a novel. Despite the conscientious staging and eloquent sense of ensemble, Word for Word's production of the first seven chapters of John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row is more about setting mime to words than creating drama. The actors duly act out all the literary descriptions of life in a sleepy California town and include even the "he saids" and "she saids" from Steinbeck's written narrative, creating an effect that is interesting for the first five minutes and tiring for the remainder of the show. As a pedagogic exercise, Word for Word's Cannery Row is faultless: watching it makes you want to read the book. But in ignoring the fact that the stage is a first-person environment by placing Steinbeck's third-person narrative literally word for word in the mouths of the cast, we're better off settling down in an armchair with a good book. (Veltman)
Eternity Is in Love with the Productions of Time Transparent Theater, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 883-0305. $20 (Sun, pay what you can). Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Dec 8. A singer named Rose has an affair with a poet. Her husband takes revenge by reporting a subversive poem to the secret police. This is the premise of Transparent Theater's original production set in a fantastical Soviet Union. The location strikes one as an easy choice, evoked ahistorically to convey a generalized atmosphere of oppression. Consequently, the artists' struggle for freedom of speech becomes empty when they don't appear to be speaking against anything in particular. Similarly, the decontextualized lines of poetry interwoven into the dialogue (from artists including Blake, Kafka, Dylan, and a handful of Russian poets translated by cowriter Tom Clyde), lose their resonance, and the handful of genuinely lyrical phrases get lost in a sea of "deep thoughts" devoid of any substantive meaning. A haunting musical score composed by Daniel Feinsmith and performed live by Alyssa Rose on the violin keeps this production afloat. (Shalson)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949. $10-54. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/30, Dec 5, 14, 19, 26, and Jan 4, 2pm; no shows Thurs/28 and Dec 24-25); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through Jan 7. Berkeley Rep presents a fantastical tale saluting the imagination, based on Salman Rushdie's novel. Director Dominique Serrand and Luan Schooler adapted the Royal National Theatre version in consultation with Rushdie. Rashid Khalifa (Serrand), world-class storyteller, loses his creative powers after wife and muse Soraya (Jennifer Baldwin Peden) leaves him. His son, Haroun (Nora El Samahy), discovers the problem may be graver still as an evil genius named Khattam-Shud (Colman Domingo) has stopped up the great oceanic source of all stories. Haroun travels a world of far-out characters and situations to unplug the source, save the day, and reunite his parents. Penned when Rushdie was still in mortal danger as a storyteller, the plot reads more like an allegory of writers' block, given its thin premise, derivative manner, and forced language not to mention the conspicuous absence of stories in this story about a veritable sea of them. Comparisons to Lewis Carroll or even Yellow Submarine (the Beatles are among the references) only point up shortcomings. The cast seems less than inspired too, never rising above a perfunctory level, while Serrand's imaginative if occasionally disjointed staging can't mask a paucity of ideas. Too much narration atop this light-hulled craft further contributes to its floundering at sea. (Avila)
High School Tamalpais High School, 700 Miller, Mill Valley; (415) 332-9454. $7.50-15 (reservations required). Fri, 6-9pm; Sat, 2-9pm; Sun, 1-8pm. Through Dec 15. Antenna presents a Walkman-enhanced, walk-though sound theater experience produced in collaboration with Tamalpais High School students and staff.
The Importance of Being Earnest Pardee Home Museum, 672 11th St, Oakl; (510) 444-2187. $15-25. Sat/30, Dec 6, 8pm; Sun/24, 2pm (also Dec 5, 8pm, Trocadero Clubhouse, Stern Grove, Sloat at 19th Ave, S.F.; Dec 7-8, 8pm, Falkirk Mansion, 1408 Mission, San Rafael). Woman's Will, the all-female Shakespeare company, puts the Bard on hold for this winsome production of Oscar Wilde's perennial pleaser. Two bored young men of the upper class, Algernon Moncrieff (Erin Merritt) and Jack Worthing (Carla Pantoja) discover they have independently developed the same alibi system in the service of some much needed frolicking in the country and city, respectively, a system Algernon refers to as Bunburying, after his imaginary invalid friend Bunbury. Jack's imaginary friend is a brother named Earnest. When Algernon decides to try Earnest on for size, complications ensue which threaten to stymie their respective infatuations for Cecily Cardew (Chloe Bronzan) and Gwendolen Fairfax (Laura Hope). Wilde himself has so mined the ironic possibilities of the premise that the untraditional casting adds no new dimension to the play's meaning, but, minus some rough patches, the acting is consistently solid, with a standout performance in Phoebe Moyer's Lady Bracknell. Director Virginia Reed handles her actors with a sure hand, and Wilde's comic masterpiece handles the rest. (Avila)
Menocchio Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949. $38-54. Wed, 7; Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/30, Dec 7, 12, and 21, 2pm; Dec 21, show at 2pm only; no show Thurs/28); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 21. Writer-director Lillian Groag's new comedy draws on Carlo Ginzburg's celebrated history of a 16-century miller tried by the Inquisition and burned at the stake for heresy. Decades before the more famous trial of Galileo Galilei, Domenego Scandella, called Menocchio, advanced a startlingly original conception of the universe that challenged the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church. His inquisitors did their best to discover where his ideas (about everything from the divinity of Christ to the origins of life) came from, while his frightened and obsequious neighbors testified against him. Groag's development of Menocchio (played by Charles Dean) as a tragicomic hero of intellectual freedom achieves decidedly mixed results. Ken Ruta as the Inquisitor does the best work in a role that brings to mind Dostoyevski's Grand Inquisitor, who quashes mankind's freedom to preserve its happiness; but in general, despite a very capable cast, the humor and drama feel thin and forced. (Avila)
Misanthrope Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381. $8-18. Fri/29-Sat/30, 8pm. Central Works performs a new play based on Moliere's classic comedy.
The Play about the Baby La Vals Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; (510) 704-8210. $10-18. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Dec 28. Shotgun Players present the West Coast premiere of Edward Albee's absurdist comedy.
Wonderful Town Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; (415) 388-5208. $25-43. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (Dec 7, 2pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 8. Marin Theatre Company and Allegro Theatre Company coproduce the Tony Award-winning musical set in 1930s New York.
Theatre Flamenco Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna; 345-7575 or (415) 826-1305. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $25-27. See Critic's Choice.
'The Buddy Club' Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Wy; (510) 236-SHOW. Sun, 11am-noon. $7. Popular children's singer Joanie Bartels performs with the Buddy Club's family show.
'Dark Kabaret' Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell; www.kabaretstore.com. Wed, 8pm. $15-25. Emcee Paul Nathan hosts an evening of cabaret and variety performers.
'EROShambo Surreal Robotic Cabaret' OmniCircus, 550 Natoma; 701-0686. Sat, 9:30pm. Through Dec 7. $10-15. A cast of musicians, performance artists, and robots appears in this original cabaret show.
'Hansel and Gretel' Legion of Honor, Florence Gould Theatre, 34th Ave at Clement; 392-4400. Sat/30 and Dec 8, 2pm. $15-30. Golden Gate Opera performs a colorful, family-friendly version of the storybook classic.
'San Francisco's Magic Parlor' Sweetie's Cafe and Pub, 475 Francisco; 771-6066. Tues, 8pm. Through Dec 31. Magicians Walt Anthony and James Hamilton "spin tales and weave enchantment" at this new ongoing performance.
'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 "One Hit Wonders."
'Zero Point Field' Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero; 285-XENO, www.xenodrome.com. Thurs-Sat, 9pm. Through Dec 14. Call for price. Xeno performs a show that combines classical dance with circus arts, pyrotechnics, and more.
'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.
BrainWash Café 1122 Folsom; 861-3663. Thurs, 8pm: Comedy open mic hosted by Tony Sparks, free.
The Field 524 Union; 377-1662. Wed, 8pm: "Comedy Club," with host Ian Jensen, $5.
Fort Mason Center Marina at Laguna (check daily events sandwich board to see exact location); 453-9092. Sat, 1-4pm: Improv workshop with Jim Crenna, $10. Ongoing.
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," hosted by Janis Lipton, $8-15 (no one turned away for lack of funds).
Black Box 1928 Telegraph, Oakl; (510) 595-5597. Thurs, 8pm: The Oakland Playhouse improv troupe performs improv comedy, $5.
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: BrainWash Café 1122 Folsom; 440-5530. "Spoken Word Salon," open mic with featured reader Will Webster and host Diamond Dave Whitaker, 8pm, free. Mama Bears Women's Bookstore 6536 Telegraph, Oakl; (510) 506-3717. "SheSpeaks," open mic night for women 18 and up, 7:30pm, $5. Starry Plough 3101 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 841-2082. "The Berkeley Slam!" with hosts Charles Ellik and dani eurynome, 8pm, $7.
Thursday: Coppa D'Oro Cafe 3164 24th St; 821-1618. "Poetry on the Patio," spoken word and acoustic music open mic with host Barbara Bennett, 6:30pm, free.
Monday: Rasselas Jazz (Fillmore) 1534 Fillmore; 346-8696. Open mic for instrumentalists, singers, and poets, featuring the Dee Spencer Trio, 8pm, free. Pegasus Books Downtown 2349 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-1320. Adam David Miller and Rita Flores Bogaert read, followed by open mic, 7pm, free.
Tuesday: English Dept. Lounge 330 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk; firstname.lastname@example.org. Forest Hamer and Angie Yuan participate in a colloquium, followed by a reading (6pm, Maud Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall), free. World Ground Café 3726 MacArthur, Oakl; (510) 261-6792. "Poetry Diversified" open mic, 7:30pm, free.