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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.
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.
Comedy Ballet Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapetickets.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 20. Dark Porch Theatre's latest (a reworked version of the piece it premiered at the Garage in July) is a fractured meta-theatrical tale about death. Not to put too fine a point on it, writer-director Martin Schwartz approaches the subject with what you might call deliberate absurdity, basking in whimsical inspiration with serious intent. Roxelana (a compellingly earnest Molly Benson) pursues an affair with the confident but completely in-over-his-head KC (Brandon Wiley), the handsome young employee of her husband (Scott Ragle), who goes tellingly by the moniker Baby Death God. Her three vaguely psychotic neighbors, meanwhile, known as The Intrepid Gentlemen (the amusingly anarchic trio of Natalie Koski-Karell, Bernard Norris, Matthew Von MeeZee), invite her to the wake for their dead dog, over whom they are unnaturally bereft. Between scenes an interviewer (Rachel Maize) queries members of the cast on a variety of subjects, including attitudes toward human sacrifice. (The actors feign indignation at the idea.) It all gradually comes to make some kind of sense, but letting go the effort to make any sense of it helps in the appreciation. Smoothing the way are likeable performances, not least Nathan Tucker's wonderfully controlled hyperbole in the part of consummate thespian Foreplay. Integral and pleasingly unexpected passages of movement (choreographed by producer Margery Fairchild), as well as a permeating spirit of morbid fancy, further contribute to an intentionally jagged work that may be difficult to define but not hard to enjoy. (Avila)
Dracula's School for Vampires Young Performers Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg C, Third Floor, Room 300; 346-5550, www.ypt.org. $7-10. Sat, 1 pm; Sun, 1 and 3:30pm. Through Sun/14. Young Performers Theatre presents a Dracula comedy by Dr. Leonard Wolf.
*Equus Boxcar Theatre Playhouse, 505 Natoma; 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org. $10-25. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 20. In the last year, it seems like there's been more full-frontal nudity in Bay Area theatre than in the preceding ten years combined. One certainly hopes it's not due to the economy. Of course, nudity isn't the only reason you should go and see Boxcar Theatre's Equus—but its presence is indicative of the overall bravery of the production. Minutely updated and Americanized by director Erin
Gilley, the tale of a troubled teen who mutilates a stable of horses without apparent provocation seems disconcertingly as plausible as when it first debuted in 1973. The uncomfortable parental dynamics as enacted by Laura Jane Bailey and Jeff Garret, the dogged pedantry of Michael Shipley's Dysart, a man measuring out his desperation not with teaspoons but with tomes of Doric architecture. Most especially, rivaling the single-minded intensity of child crusaders, teenage suicide bombers, and accidental martyrs, 18-year-old Bobby Conte Thornton's unflinching portrayal of Alan Stang ably taps into the extremist
impulses of adolescence. "Extremity," Shipley reminds us, "is the point", and it's exactly what Thornton delivers, from his nervous misdirections, to the ferocious abandon of his midnight rituals. Artistic Director Nick a. Olivero's skills as a set designer are suitably showcased by a convincingly stable-like thrust of rough planks and second story "loft" seating, while Krista Smith's lighting subtly adds texture and depth. (Gluckstern)
Failure to Communicate The Garage, 975 Howard; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. Call for prices. Fri-Sat 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sun/14. One part Torey Hayden, and one part Dr. Pangloss, Veronica Gray (Jaimielee Roberts) is an artist in need of a job, and so takes the position of teaching assistant in a classroom for severely troubled children. At first it seems like a good fit for her -- she's unfazed by the student's scare tactics and drawn to their talents, in particular the artistic streak displayed by the autistic Loomis (Geoff Bangs). But eventually the extreme stress of her responsibilities starts to effect her equilibrium, and the rest of the play becomes a sort of elegiac apology for her eventual request to be transferred, and the havoc it plays on the emotions of her students. A first foray into playwriting for Performers Under Stress company member Valerie Fachman, Failure to Communicate feels very much like a work in progress. Its strengths – compelling material, quirky characters, and an insider's perspective on an overloaded educational system – are soon overwhelmed by its weak points: too many veiled references to various abuses without follow-up, too much random violence without consequences, too many lengthy transitions and choppy scenes which neither drive the skeletal plot nor flesh out the occasionally hilarious yet often frustratingly two-dimensional characters. As a concept, Failure is intriguing but I'm hoping there will be a version 2.0 in the future, with a tighter focus and more comprehensive character development. (Gluckstern)
*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)
Hedda Gabler Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason; (800) 838-3006, www.offbroadwaywest.org. $35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Sat/13. The action unfolds in the parlor of the newly married Tesmans, young mediocre academic George (Adam Simpson) and town beauty Hedda, née Gabler (a crisp, tightly wound and nicely understated Cecilia Palmtag), a woman of exceptional intelligence, ambition and pride—to call her fiery wouldn't be bad either, especially since she's so fond of shooting off her late father's pistols. Frustrated by her paltry new life, Hedda seeks news of an old flame, Eilert Lovborg (Paul Baird), via the admiring and vaguely lecherous Judge Brack (Peter Abraham) and a timid acquaintance from school days, Thea (Joceyln Stringer). The semi-wild but brilliant Lovborg has published a new book that imperils George's chances for a professorship. Less interested in securing George's career than controlling Lovborg's destiny, Hedda soon manipulates events around her with bold determination and tragic consequences. Passionate, violent and psychologically complex, Henrik Ibsen's titular heroine is at turns sympathetic and disturbing, an independent soul trapped in and warped by a society that allows her too little scope—a modern predicament that has inspired many modern and postmodern adaptations. Off Broadway West's straight-ahead production of the late-19th-century drama, helmed by artistic director Richard Harder, remains faithful to the period setting. This includes Bert van Aalsburg's respectable scenic design and Sylvia Kratins impressive costumes, as well as the old if fine translation by William Archer, who first introduced Ibsen to the English-speaking world. Unfortunately, the quaint diction is not handled with equal grace across an uneven cast. Palmtag's solid, at times admirable performance in the lead, however, goes a good way toward grounding an otherwise patchy production. (Avila)
It's All the Rage The Marsh, 1062 Valencia; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Dec 5. The Marsh presents a new solo show by Marilyn Pittman.
Law and Order: San Francisco Unit: The Musical! EXIT Theater, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10. Mon, 8pm. Through Mon/15. Funny But Mean comedy troupe extends its newest show at a new venue.
Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary; 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $22-82. Call for dates and times. Through Nov. 21. American Conservatory Theater presents its contribution to the three-theater Bay Area debut of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister Plays , completing the young African American playwright's much-touted but generally underwhelming trilogy with a coming-of-age story about a gay 16-year-old (a sharp and likeable Richard Prioleau) in a small black community of the Louisiana bayou. A recurring dream haunts the still-closeted Marcus, while the man in it, the long-gone Oshoosi Size (a vital Tobie L. Windham), stalks the stage with an ominous-sounding message for his older brother, Ogun (played with listless, gathering despair by Gregory Wallace). But the action unfolding against Alexander V. Nichols' gorgeously moody, shape-shifting backdrop (a video-based evocation of land, sky and built environment) has only a perfunctory urgency to it. The play, smoothly directed for maximum laughs by Mark Rucker, is more inclined toward amiable scenes of tentative concern by all (including three key female characters played brilliantly by Margo Hall), Marcus's sexual initiation by a visitor from the Bronx (Windham), or the fraught but whimsical camaraderie between Marcus and childhood friends Osha (Shinelle Azoroh) and Shaunta (Omozé Idehenre). Last-minute intimations of Katrina, meanwhile, come as arbitrary and less than powerful. "Sweet" is the sexually knowing, ambiguous term attaching to Marcus—whom all seem to already know and more or less accept as gay—but it's also a too apt description for this well-acted but overblown and forgettable play. (Avila)
Murder for Two: A Killer Musical Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 252-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. Runs Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm, Sat, 6pm, Sun, 3pm. Through Nov 21. 42nd Street Moon presents a mix of Agatah Christie and musical comedy, by Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian.
*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.
A Perfect Ganesh New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $22-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 19. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents the Terrence McNally play, directed by Arturo Catricala.
*Reluctant Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St; 641-7657, www.brava.org. $10-25. Thurs, 8pm; Fri-Sat, 10pm. Through Sat/13. Joel Israel joins the likes of Eric Bogosian, Joe Frank, and Jack Nicholson (in The King of Marvin Gardens) in making the radio booth one of the more intimate yet far-reaching of metaphors—a hermetic recess of lonely, fervid minds that ranges over the collective unconscious by air, with the power to infiltrate the most vulnerable, unguarded corners of an unsuspecting populace. Shrewdly directed by Meiyin Wang, the New York playwright-performer's cool, slyly seductive piece of theatrical psychopathology, Reluctant, makes an impressive West Coast debut in Brava's appropriately intimate upstairs studio. There, on Sophia Alberts-Willis's choice radio-studio set, and under Simone Hamilton's moody lighting, the audience slips effortlessly into the hushed, anxious trance of Israel's intoxicating noir storyteller. Nattily dressed in jacket and tie, and cooing deftly crafted prose over eerie nocturnal underscoring by sound designer Mark Valadez, the storyteller unfurls a performative "audio" spectacle at the borderline between imagination and deed—and maybe personality too. This guy is not to be trusted, especially opposite the woman he interviews (Brava's artistic director Raelle Myrick-Hodges on opening night but played, in serial fashion, by a different actress each time). No, like any devil in your ear, you don't want to trust him, but you don't want to tune him out either. (Avila)
Shocktoberfest!! 2010: Kiss of Blood Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-35. Thurs-Fri, 8pm. 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)
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.
The Tempest Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor; (800) 838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $15-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (no show Nov 25). Cutting Ball Theater opens its 11th season with a three-person chamber version of the Shakespeare classic.
The Unexpected Man EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $18-25. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Sun/14. Spare Stage revives Yasmina Reza's ironic comedy, starring Ken Ruta.
*West Side Story Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market; www.orpheum-theater.com. $88-378. Check for dates and times. Through Nov 28. Opening night of the touring Broadway revival coincided with game two of the World Series, and giddy Giants fans were loath to put away their smart phones until the final plea from the house managers. But then the curtain rose on perhaps the finest and most moving display of athleticism, professionalism, and grace to be found outside of AT&T Park. The 1957 musical, which updated Romeo and Juliet with a cross-cultural romance between Tony (Kyle Harris) and Maria (Ali Ewoldt) amid immigrant gangland New York, came instantly alive with all its storied potency—revved up for new millennium audiences with less reserved violence and the addition of a smattering of real Spanish throughout. David Saint's excellent cast—including standout Michelle Aravena as Anita—and a nicely dynamic orchestra under conductor John O'Neill do satisfying justice to the jagged, jazzy modernism of Leonard Bernstein's score, Stephen Sondheim's soaring lyrics, Arthur Laurents' smart book, and Jerome Robbins' mesmerizing choreography (here re-created by Joey McKneely). At intermission, the house manager graciously announced the final winning score from the ballpark, and everyone cheered. It was a win-win situation. (Avila)
Becoming Britney Center REPertory Company, Knight Stage 3 Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-SHOW, www.centerREP.org. $25. Thurs-Sat, 8:15pm; Sun, 2:15pm. Through Sat/14. Center REPertory Company presents an original musical about a naïve pop star, written by Molly Bell and Daya Curley.
Burning Libraries: Stories From the New Ellis Island Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-25. Wed-Sat, 8pm, Sun, 3pm (also Sun/7, 7pm). Through Nov 14. Alice presents an evening-length theatrical performance spectacle, directed and co-written by Helen Stoltzfus.
Cinderella, Enchanted Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (510) 665-5565, www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $15-33. Call for run times. Through Dec 5. Frenchie Davis is plays the Fairy Godmother in this production of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical.
CTRL-ALT-DELETE Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear, Mountain View; (650) 254-1148, www.thepear.org. $15-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Nov 21. Pear Avenute Theatre presents the comedy by Anthony Clarvoe.
Dracula Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-SHOW, www.centerrep.org. $36-42. 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.
*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 Sat/13. Ann Randolph's acclaimed one-woman comic show about grief returns for its sixth sold-out extension.
Palomino Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-55. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm; Tues, 7pm. Through Dec 5. David Cale brings his new solo play about a gigolo to Aurora Theatre for its Bay Area premiere.
Pirates of Penzance Novato Theatre Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio, Novato; 883-4498, www.novatotheatercompany.org. $12-22. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Nov 21. Novato Theatre Company revives the popular Gilbert and Sullivan swashbuckling tale.
*The Play About the Naked Guy La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no show Nov 25). Through Dec 11. Impact Theatre presents an off-Broadway hit, written by David Bell and directed by Evren Odcikin.
Winter's Tale Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-5999, www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/14, 2pm; Nov 18, 8pm). Through Nov 20. Actor's Ensemble of Berkeley presents the rarely-performed Shakespeare play.