Audition – A Play Exit Theater, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. Call for price. Thurs and Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Sun/13. GenerationTheatre presents a comedy of the absurd by Roland David Valayre.
Bone to Pick and Diadem Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor; (800) 838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $15-50. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Sun/13. Cutting Ball Theatre presents a pair of plays by Eugenie Chan.
Clue Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma; 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org. $15-35. Wed-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 7 and 10pm. Through Feb 19. A play based on a film based on a board game is just the kind of tangled genealogy much goodtime theater is made of these days. So there's nothing too new about Boxcar's stage adaptation of the manic 1985 comedy derived from a once popular Parker Bros. diversion. In fact, it's at least the second stage adaptation of same to be offered in San Francisco. (Impossible Productions remounted its version at the Dark Room just last year.) Nevertheless, led by adapter-director Nick A. Olivero, Boxcar's production pursues its vision like a mad yen, with a loving fidelity and self-referential glee that are not so much inspired as just plain zealous (although Olivero's scenic design does reach new heights: a TV-toned board-game set that the audience peers down on from six-feet-high balconies ringing the stage). Performances are dutiful and solid for the most part, with especially nice work from Brian Martin (as the butler) and J. Conrad Frank (as Mrs. Peacock). Although there's something vaguely and not unpleasantly hypnotic about it all, groups of cult-film line-gleaners may be the best audience for this one. (Avila)
*The Companion Piece Z Space at Theatre Artaud, 450 Florida; (800) 838-3006, www.zspace.org. $20-$40. Thurs 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Sun/13. Z Space presents the world premiere of a new play by Mark Jackson, with Beth Wilmurt and Christopher Kuckenbaker.
Next to Normal Curran Theatre, 445 Geary; (888) SHN-1799, www.shnsf.com. $30-99. Call for dates and times. Through Feb 20. Diana Goodman (Alice Ripley) is a woman too restlessly witty and big-souled to sit easy in the suburban home she shares with her husband (Asa Somers), 16-year-old daughter (Emma Hunton), and 18-year-old son (Curt Hansen). What's worse, the 18-year-old died as a baby about 17 years ago, and has not been taking the news lying down. A mother's grief winds through this sometimes clever, mostly sappy, and ultimately tedious Broadway rock musical about a bipolar woman and the impact of her illness on her family. Director Michael Greif's (Rent) kinetic staging takes place across a three-level industrial-box set that houses musicians in its outer corners as well as the stereotypical family dwelling in its center. The set's outer façade (moving panels featuring giant eyes and mouth) meanwhile suggests the whole thing as a model of the mind we're witnessing come apart. The 2008 musical by Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music) won a Pulitzer for its supposedly bold depiction of mental illness. But despite reasonable scoffing at the paternalistic, pharmacologically fueled regime of mainstream treatment (embodied by Jeremy Kushnier's various doctors), neither Tony-winner Ripley's jagged performance nor Yorkey's book transcends a stultifying and finally grating set of narrative clichés, which the driving, mostly generic-sounding score only makes more obvious. A Woman Under the Influence this isn't. (Avila)
Out of Sight The Marsh, 1062 Valencia; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Thurs and Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Sun/13. Sara Felder's solo show combines juggling and shadow puppetry to tell the coming-of-age story of a devoted Jewish daughter who, after an eye-opening trip to Israel as a teen in the 1980s, reaches a crisis of understanding with her legally blind opera-loving mother, an ardent Zionist. The first juggling act belongs to her mother (as portrayed by Felder), who amusingly balances several sets of eyeglasses and other magnifying devices to capture a sense of the action at the Met. From there, Felder weaves increasingly adept and riskier feats of juggling into her narrative, as if sharpening her own set of 20/20s (as an out lesbian and a questioning Jew vis-à-vis Israel) from within the penumbra of motherly influence and affection. It's also, at times, a striking illustration of both the unease and grace she manifests in broaching the subject of Israel's glaring contradictions. Significantly, Felder's seminal romance with a woman pays no part in the tension with her mother—or with her best male friend, who turns Orthodox after touching down in the Holy Land. Rather, it's the gentle Felder's encounter with the reality of the Jewish state for Palestinians and her willingness to see it for what it is. Still, given the chasm between mother and daughter on so big and basic an issue, their reconciliation comes a bit fast and neat. (Avila)
Party of 2 – The New Mating Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; (800) 838-3006, www.partyof2themusical.com. $27-29. Sun, 3pm. Open-ended. A musical about relationships by Shopping! The Musical author Morris Bobrow.
*Pearls Over Shanghai Thrillpeddlers' Hypnodrome, 575 Tenth St; 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-69. Sat, 8pm. Through April 9. Thrillpeddlers' acclaimed production of the Cockettes musical continues its successful run.
Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough; (510) 207-5774, www.custommade.org. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Feb 19. Originally conceived as a one-off benefit show by Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo and director Lucy Sexton, Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell intersperses segments of some of Gray's most famous works—Swimming to Cambodia, Gray's Anatomy, Monster in a Box—with excerpts from his journals, the stories left to tell. The original concept to have five actors representing five aspects of Gray's words—adventure, career, family, journals, and love—seems to have been crafted with the specific purpose of allowing several people the opportunity to "speak for" Spalding, without actually performing "as" Spalding, appropriate enough for a celebratory memorial, but hard to accept as a capital-P play. It's a conundrum that Custom Made Theatre cannot solve. Half the cast convey by their tone and manner the casual ease of campfire story-tellers, while the other half take a more performative approach to their recitations, particularly a smooth Patrick Barresi as "Career" and the likable Richard Wenzel as "Love." The stories themselves are often hilarious, including Gray's turns as a "Bowery Bum," a jailbird in Nevada, and a sweat lodge initiate, while the stories that are not side-splittingly funny are poignant, painful, and even unflinchingly sentimental, especially in regards to his young sons. But as a work of theatre, they underwhelmed. (Gluckstern)
Treefall New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctsf.org. $24-40. Call for dates and times. Through Feb 27. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents a tale of erotic attraction by Henry Murray.
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs Berkeley Rep, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Call for dates and times. Through Feb 27. Storyteller Mike Daisey spins a yarn about the Apple head.
Collapse Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $34-55. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm; Tues, 7pm (also Feb 19, 2pm). Through March 6. Aurora Theatre presents a comedy by Allison Moore.
East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Call for times. Through Sun/13. Don Reed's one-man show continues its extended run.
Grapes of Wrath Marion E. Green Black Box Theater, 531 19th, Oakl; www.theatrefirst.com. $10-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 20. TheatreFIRST presents Frank Galati's stage adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel.
Heartbreak House Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-0999, www.berkeleyrep.org. $12-15. Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sun/13, 2pm; Feb, 17, 8pm). Through Feb 19. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley presents the George Bernard Shaw comedy set just before World War I.
The Last Cargo Cult Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Call for dates and times. Through Feb 20. As fans of J. Maarten Troost have learned, life on an island "paradise" is far less idyllic than the imagination yearns to believe. So it's hardly surprising that Mike Daisey's monologue The Last Cargo Cult begins with a white-knuckle ride in a prop plane piloted by a man with a milky eye. Daisey's destination, the Pacific island of Tanna, is the location of one of the world's last so-called "cargo cults", and their big celebration "John Frum Day" is approaching. Daisey's intention to hang out at the festivities smacks a little of entitled voyeurism, but the parallel he manages to draw between the complexities of a religion dedicated to a mythical cargo of "awesome shit", and our own dedication to the acquisition of same, is a striking one. From our almost blind faith in the value of basically valueless currency, to our even blinder faith that indenturing ourselves by debt will enrich us, the foundations of our own "cargo cult" are revealed smartly by Daisey to be just as precarious as if built at the base of a volcano as in Tanna. Still, I found the most revealing thing about the evening to be the moment when the couple next to me took off with a $100 bill they'd acquired free-of-charge at the door, to which I can't help but ask them: "Did you get your money's worth?" (Gluckstern)
Not a Genuine Black Man The Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri, 8pm. Through Feb 18. Brian Copeland brings back his long-running solo show.
Strange Travel Suggestions The Marsh Berkeley, Cabaret, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through Feb 19. Jeff Greenwald stars in a one-man show about the vagaries of wanderlust.
The 39 Steps TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $24-79. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Sun/13. TheatreWorks presents Patrick Barlow's comic adaptation of the book and movie of the same name.
World's Funniest Bubble Show The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $8-11. Sun, 11am. Through April 3. The Amazing Bubble Man extends the bubble-making celebration.
Marga's Funny Mondays The Cabaret at The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. Mon/7, 8pm. $10. Marga Gomez hosts a Monday night comedy series.
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. For complete listings, see www.sfbg.com.