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.
Dracula's School for Vampires Young Performers Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg C, Third Floor, Room 300; 346-5550, www.ypt.org. $7-10. Opens Sat/23, 1pm. Runs Sat, 1 pm; Sun, 1 and 3:30pm. Through Nov 14. Young Performers Theatre presents a Dracula comedy by Dr. Leonard Wolf.
Dracula Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-SHOW, www.centerrep.org. $36-42. Previews Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 2:30pm. Opens Tues/26, 7:30 pm. Runs Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2:30pm (also Nov 20, 8pm). Through Nov 20. Eugene Brancoveanu stars as the Count in a production directed by Michael Butler.
The Great Game: Afghanistan Roda Theatre, 201 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $17-73. Call for times. Through Nov 7. Berkeley Rep presents the West Coast premiere of a three-part show about Afghanistan.
Winter's Tale Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-5999, www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Opens Fri/22, 8pm. Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Oct 31, Nov, 7, and Nov 14, 2pm; Nov 18, 8pm). Through Nov 20. Actor's Ensemble of Berkeley presents the rarely-performed Shakespeare play.
Absolutely San Francisco Phoenix Theatre, Stage 2, 414 Mason; 433-1235, www.absolutelysanfrancisco.com. $20-25. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Sat/23. A one-woman musical starring Karen Hirst, with book and music by Anne Doherty.
Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $24-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sun/24. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents a show by Brian Christopher Williams.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Actors Theatre, 855 Bush; 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Fri/22. Actors Theatre presents Tennessee Williams' sultry, sweltering tale of a Mississippi family, directed by Keith Phillips.
Christian Cagigal's Obscura: A Magic Show EXIT Cafe, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Magician Christian Cagigal presents a mix of magic, fairy tales, and dark fables.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm (also Sat/16, 1pm). Through Sat/ 24. Although a little slow and awkward at the start, not long into 42nd Street Moon's staging of Stephen Sondheim classic and classical (being inspired by the farces of Plautus) musical comedy (with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart) you feel it's making up in enthusiasm and grit what it lacks in Broadway-sized budgets. It helps that artistic director Greg MacKellan has assembled an able cast, especially in the principal roles. It can't be easy to follow in the cavorting footsteps of Zero Mostel and Nathan Lane, but Megan Cavanagh has absolutely no trouble wooing the audience in the central role of Pseudolus, the clever slave bargaining and scheming for his freedom. Strong performances come too from Michael Rhone as fellow slave Hysterium (a name that speaks for itself), Bob Greene as horny paterfamilias Senex, and Rob Hatzenbeller as the self-loving captain Miles Gloriosus. Nice costuming (by Louise Jarmilowicz), a hint of Roman architecture (courtesy of set designer Jon Wai-keung Lowe), generally spiffy choreography (by Tom Segal) and jaunty musical accompaniment from musical director Dave Dobrusky and horn player Nick Di Scala all add lift to a gradual charmer of a show. (Avila)
Futurestyle '79 Off-Market Theater, Studio 250, 965 Mission; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-20. Wed, 8pm. Through Oct 27. A fully improvised episodic comedy played against the backdrop of SF in 1979.
Habibi Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia; 626-2787, www.theintersection.org. $15-25. Thurs-Sun, 8pm. Through Nov 7. Intersection for the Arts and Campo Santo present the world premiere of a play by Sharif Abu-Hamdeh.
*Hamlet Alcatraz Island; 547-0189, www.weplayers.org. By donation. Sat-Sun, times vary. Through Nov 21. Outside of an actual castle, it would hard to say what could serve as a more appropriate stand-in for Kronborg castle of Helsingør—also known as Elsinore—than the isolated fortress of Alcatraz Island, where WE Players are presenting Hamlet in all its tragic majesty. As audience members tramp along stony paths and through prison corridors from one scene to the next, the brooding tension the site alone creates is palpable, and the very walls impart a sense of character, as opposed to window-dressing. Deftly leaping around rubble and rock, a hardy troupe of thespians and musicians execute the three-hour production with neat precision, guiding the audience to parts of the island and prison edifice that aren't usually part of the standard Alcatraz tour package. Incorporating movement, mime, live music, and carefully-engineered use of space, the Players turn Alcatraz into Denmark, as their physical bodies meld into Alcatraz. Casting actress Andrus Nichols as the discontent prince of Denmark is an incongruity that works, her passions' sharp as her swordplay, the close-knit family unit of Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius are emphatically human (Benjamin Stowe, Misti Boettiger, Jack Halton), and Scott D. Phillips plays the appropriately militaristic and ego-driven Claudius with a cold steel edge. (Gluckstern)
Last Days of Judas Iscariot Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough; (510) 207-5774, www.CustomMade.org. $10-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Oct 30. Custom Made Theatre Company presents the 2005 play by New York's Stephen Adly Guirgis (Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the A Train), which places purgatorial Judas (Kristoffer Alberto Barrera) on trial to determine his deserved fate for dropping a dime on Jesus and all that jazz. Flamboyant, sycophantic and horny prosecutor El-Fayoumy (Ben Ortega) and defense attorney Loretta (Amelia Avila) call between them a series of brow-raising witnesses—including Mother Teresa (Brandy Leggett), Sigmund Freud (Catz Forsman), and Satan (Richard Wenzel)—as Judas (seated on the upper tier of Sarah Phykitt's suitably imposing split-level set) stares stoically in relative silence or appears in a series of childhood flashbacks. Characteristically funny and streetwise, as well as versed in the Catholic rigmarole as filtered through a NYC-boroughs sensibility, Guirgis's play is also unusually tedious in its jokey, poky unfolding since—offering not much more than a cipher in the largely mute Iscariot—the proceedings lack a strong sense of dramatic stakes. It feels more like a revue than a play, or like an unnecessarily long-winded excuse for the final, well-turned concluding monologue by a heretofore marginal character (a speech delivered with admirable understatement by director Brian Katz). (Avila)
Love Song Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 3 and 8pm. Through Sat/23. An offbeat comedy by John Kolvenbach, directed by Loretta Janca.
Mary Stuart The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $15-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. (also Wed/20, Oct 27, Nov 3; 7pm). Through Nov 7. Shotgun Players presents Friedrich Schiller's historical drama, directed by Mark Jackson.
Nina and the Monsters Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th; 509-8656, 509-8656. $10-15. Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sun/24, 2pm). Ninjaz of Drama with Footloose present a modern-day fairy tale.
*Pearls Over Shanghai Thrillpeddlers' Hypnodrome, 575 10th St; (8008) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-69. Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 19. Thrillpeddlers' acclaimed production of the Cockettes musical continues its successful run.
Proof Exit Stage Left Theatre, 156 Eddy; www.belljartheatre.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 30. Bell Jar Theatre presents David Auburn's award-winning play.
*The Real Americans The Marsh MainStage, 1062 Valencia; (800) 838-3006; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Wed-Fri, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Nov 6. The fifth extension of Dan Hoyle's acclaimed show, directed by Charlie Varon.
*Scapin American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary; 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-90. Tues-Sun, times vary. Through Sat/23. Bill Irwin, the innovative former Pickle Family clown and neo-vaudevillian turned Broadway star, makes a San Francisco return at the helm—and in the title role—of American Conservatory Theater's production of Moliere's classic farce. It's an excuse for some arch meta-theatrical high jinx as well as expert clowning, a love fest really, with many fine moments amid a general font of fun whose heady purity seems like it should fall under some FDA regulation or other—clearly, somebody has paid someone to look the other way, and for once the corruption is unreservedly welcome. Joining the fun is Irwin's old comrade-in-arms and, here, sacks, Geoff Hoyle, as miserly and dyspeptic daddy Geronte. Other ACT regulars and veterans flesh out a winning cast, among them the ever versatile and inimitable Gregory Wallace as Octave, a flouncing Steven Anthony Jones as put-out patriarch Argante, René Augesen as boisterously unlikely "virgin" Zerbinette, and a wonderfully adept and scene-stealing Judd Williford in the role of Scapin sidekick Sylvestre. As for Irwin, his comedic sensibility shows itself scrupulously apt and timeless at once, and his sure, lithesome performance intoxicating and age-defying. As a director, moreover, he gives as generously to each of his fellow performers as he does to his adoring, lovingly tousled audience. (Avila)
The Shining: Live The Dark Room, 2263 Mission; 401-7891, www.darkroomsf.com. $7-10. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Sat/23. The Dark Room becomes the Overlook Hotel in this stage production of the horror classic.
*SHIToberfest Off-Market Theaters, 965 Mission; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 30. This special October run of PianoFight's bowel-loosening comedy series, the S.H.I.T. Show (for acronym fans, that's the Stop Hating Imagination Time Show), revolves dizzyingly around the subject of beer, Germans and, perhaps less explicably, flatulent dolphins, among much else in the wide open seas of poor taste. Is it hilarious? It is. And you don't even need to smuggle in a forty to make it so, though it certainly doesn't hurt. Fine comic acting throughout a charismatic cast (including writer-director-producers Alex Boyd, Zach Cahn, Jed Goldstein, Ray Hobbs, Devin McNulty, Evan Winchester and Duncan Wold, with help from Nicole Hammersla, Gabrielle Patacsil, Rob Ready, Derricka Smith, Andy Strong, Jacque Vavroch and Dan Williams) combines here with generally solid to exceptional sketch work, video and song. Add in a permeating spirit of revelry, debauchery and irreverence and the evening becomes a diversion of the first order, culminating in an utterly sacrilicious sketch about a bunch of toasted beer-brewing monks treated to a papal visit—one of the best venial sins for your buck. When it comes to Octoberfesting this year, "Bavaria" is just S.H.I.T.–faced for Bay Area. (Avila)
Shocktoberfest!! 2010: Kiss of Blood Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-35. Thurs-Fri, 8pm (Thurs/21, Fri/22, Oct 28, Oct 29, Oct 30, and Oct 31 include performances of The Forsaken Laboratory by the Brazilian Grand Guignol group Vigor Mortis). Through Nov 19. Thrillpeddlers' seasonal slice of eyeball is comprised of three playlets variously splattered with platelets, all directed by Russell Blackwood and bridged by a rousing burst of bawdy song from the full cast. Rob Keefe's Lips of the Damned (after La Veuve by Eugene Heros and Leon Abric) takes place in a rat-infested museum of atrocities just before the fumigating starts, as an adulterous couple—comprised of a kinky married lady (a vivacious Kara Emry) and a naïve hunk from the loading dock (Daniel Bakken)—get their kicks around the guillotine display, and their comeuppance from the jilted proprietor (Flynn DeMarco). Keefe's delightfully off-the-wall if also somewhat off-kilter Empress of Colma posits three druggy queens in grandma's basement, where they practice and primp for their chance at drag greatness, and where newly crowned Crystal (a gloriously beaming Blackwood) lords it over resentful and suspicious first-runner-up Patty Himst (Eric Tyson Wertz) and obliviously cheerful, non-sequiturial Sunny (Birdie-Bob Watt). When fag hag Marcie (Emry) arrives with a little sodium pentothal snatched from dental school, the truth will out every tiny closeted secret, and at least one big hairy one. Kiss of Blood, the 1929 Grand Guignol classic, wraps things up with botched brain surgery and a nicely mysterious tale of a haunted and agonized man (Wertz) desperate to have Paris's preeminent surgeon (DeMarco) cut off the seemingly normal finger driving him into paroxysms of pain and panic. Well-acted in the preposterously melodramatic style of the gory genre, the play (among one or two other things) comes off in a most satisfying fashion. (Avila)
Sunset Limited SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter; 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $40-50. Tues-Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 3 and 8pm. Through Nov 6. This 2006 play by Cormac McCarthy exhibits some of the best and worst of the celebrated author, but significantly more of the latter. It sets an aging white academic and failed suicide (Charles Dean) in a room with his rescuer and would-be savior, a poor black social worker (Carl Lumbly), who has just snatched him from a railway platform ahead of a tête-à-tête with a train called the Sunset Limited. Both characters remain nameless, emphasizing the abstract pseudo-Socratic dimensions attendant on the dialogue-driven realism here (staged with a knowing wink in director Bill English's scenic design, a partially walled wood-framed shack with see-through slits between the thin horizontal planking). The black man is a born-again Christian and ex-con convinced Jesus has just given him a major assignment. His dogmatic certainty is matched by the white man's nihilism and despair. "I believe in the primacy of the intellect," the miserable prof tells his host, who's locked the door on his self-destructive guest in an effort to buy time to change his mind. Leaving aside the historically clichéd, problematic and baggage-heavy dynamic of a poor black American devoted to the welfare of a rich white one, neither man moves from his respective position one inch (at least until perhaps and partially at the very end), which constrains the dramatic development. Moreover, both sides argue feebly, mainly by gainsaying whatever it is the other one says, making this not a great intellectual debate either. SF Playhouse's production sets two fine actors at this heavy-handed twofer, but little can be done to redeem so static and arid an exercise. (Avila)
Susie Butler Sings the Sarah Vaughan Songbook Exit Theater Cafe, 156 Eddy; (510) 860-0997, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-20. Sat, 8:30pm. Through Nov 20. Local actress and singer Susie Butler takes on the Sassy songbook.
Zombie Town Stage Werx Theatre, 533 Sutter; www.stagewerx.org. (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $24. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Oct 31, 5pm). Through Oct 31. Catharsis Theatre Collective presents a documentary play about zombie attacks in Texas.
*Compulsion Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-85. Dates and times vary. Through Oct 31. Director Oscar Eustis of New York's Public Theater marks a Bay Area return with an imaginatively layered staging of Rinne Groff's stimulating new play. Compulsion locates the momentous yet dauntingly complex cultural-political outcomes of the Holocaust in the career of a provocative Jewish American character, Sid Silver, driven by real horror, sometimes-specious paranoia, and unbounded ego in his battle for control over the staging of Anne Frank's Diary. A commandingly intense and fascinatingly nuanced Mandy Patinkin plays the brash, litigious Silver, based on real-life writer Meyer Levin, a best-selling author who obsessively pursued rights to stage his own version of Anne Frank's story. The forces competing for ownership of, and identification with, Anne Frank and her hugely influential diary extend far beyond her father Otto, Silver, or the diary's publishers at Doubleday (represented here by a smooth Matte Osian in a variety of parts; and a vital Hannah Cabell, who doubles as Silver's increasingly alarmed and alienated French wife). But the power of Groff's play lies in grounding the deeply convoluted and compromised history of that text and, by extension, the memory and meanings of the Holocaust itself, in a small set of forceful characters—augmented by astute use of marionettes (designed by Matt Acheson) and the words of Anne Frank herself (partially projected in Jeff Sugg's impressive video design). The productive dramatic tension doesn't let up, even after the seeming grace of the last-line, which relieves Silver of worldly burdens but leaves us brooding on their shifting meanings and ends. (Avila)
*East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Dates and times vary. Through Nov 21. Don Reed's solo play, making its Oakland debut after an acclaimed New York run, is truly a welcome homecoming twice over. (Avila)
*Loveland The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-50. Fri, 7pm; Sat, 5pm. Through Nov 13. Ann Randolph's acclaimed one-woman comic show about grief returns for its sixth sold-out extension.
Superior Donuts TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-67. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Oct 31. This latest from Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, Killer Joe) starts out as a delicious treat but a hollowness in the center of it all leaves one less than fully satisfied. Director Leslie Martinson's cast shines, however, as the action unfolds in crisp, engaging scenes set in the titular run-down donut shop in Chicago's slowly gentrifying Uptown neighborhood. Owner-operator Arthur Przybyszewski (Howard Swain) is an aging baby boomer and second-generation Polish immigrant who fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft and returned years later to take over his parents shop, alienated and hesitant, though well liked by his regulars. At least most: As the play opens his shop has been vandalized. Two beat cops are on the scene, James (Michael J. Asberry) and Randy (Julia Brothers), the latter eventually displaying a visible crush on an oblivious, then discombobulated Arthur. When an impressive young African American man named Franco (Lance Gardner) comes in and charms his way into a job, Arthur gradually finds himself drawn out of his shell and faced with the challenge of valuing another human being more than his own hide—a challenge underscored by Arthur's several monologues, in which his personal history comes to the fore. The play feels pat and a little lazy-sentimental in the end, but there's no denying the entertainment afforded here, especially by the magnetic pairing of leads Swain and Gardner. (Avila)