The Dog and Pony Show The Marsh, 1062 Valencia; 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Sun/27. No horses in this show, actually, and no people either, just dogs. That's the claim anyway. But while she manages to largely steer clear of ponies, in her new solo show, Michigan-based performance artist and NEA Four alum Holly Hughes ultimately segues not so subtly from her lifelong obsession with dogs to the life lessons we might glean from them. Treats along the way can take the form of amusing personal observations about Dorothy and Toto's misadventure in the Wizard of Oz, a clip of the Obamas wagging the White House dog on Barbara Walters, or Hughes and her partner of 16 years at home in cozy domesticity—just two women, nine animals, and one sectional sofa. Her own family's love for animals developed in the absence of much love for anyone else, Hughes tells us. Fortunately her monologue, directed by Dan Hurlin, resists being a bummer thanks to Hughes' indomitable good nature. It's her very cute and talented Norfolk terrier who steals the show, however, via a video segment at a Michigan dog competition. Maybe that's as it should be in this unabashed bow to the bowwow. (Avila)
*Farragut North NOHSpace, 2840 Mariposa. www.opentabproductions.com. $25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 5. Former Howard Dean speechwriter Beau Willimon's formulaic but solidly crafted 2008 play about backroom politics and the seamy side of what's euphemistically called the American democratic process seems like it'd make a good George Clooney movie. George Clooney thought so too. He's making it now under the title The Ides of March. You can see it sooner and without all those goddamn movie stars in this low-budget, high-octane staging by OpenTab Productions (Fishing). Stephen (Ben Euphrat) is a 25-year-old wiz of a press secretary for a "maverick" governor heading into a major primary battle on the road to the White House. But an unexpected phone call leads "idealistic" power-lover Stephen into temptation, even as it reveals the real dynamics of the electoral system he thought he'd mastered. A battle for career survival ensues with his former boss (Alex Plant), in which loyalty is a password and decency the first sandbag to drop. Opening night had one or two timing issues and some actors lost in shadow, but director Dave Sikula builds the action well and gets strong performances from an uneven but generally winning cast. Particularly nice work comes from a convincingly unraveling Euphant, a coolly compassionate Carla Pauli (as precocious intern–turned–unwitting pawn), and the formidable Nathan Tucker as Stephen's slickly conniving counterpart and Mephistopheles of the moment.
*The Last Night of the Barbary Coast SOMArts,934 Brannan; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5 and 9pm. Through Sat/26. A fresh theatrical breeze blows in from the rank and churlish alleyways of Gold Rush San Francisco's notorious red light district in writer/director Jessa Brie Berkner and Idora Park Theatre Company's beautifully detailed musical tale. Set on and around a gorgeous rotating roulette-wheel stage (crafted by Simon Cheffins and Jack Ruszel, and hauntingly illuminated by lighting designer Zoltan DeWitt), Last Night of the Barbary Coast tells the story of a young Midwestern woman (Tristan Cunningham) who joins a traveling troupe of vaudevillians, searching for an unknown freedom in the chaotic landscape of the Old West as a performer and prostitute. A set of 49er archetypes (smartly outfitted by costumer Lucid Dawn) overflow the ample SOMArts stage with the all the flouncing brawn, sashaying bodices and boozy bluster of a saloon floorshow, alongside live musical accompaniment from vocalist-instrumentalist Freddi Price's lush and moody nine-piece Alchemical Orchestra. Told in snatches of dialogue, song and pantomime (smooth choreography by Ena Dallas), Berkner weaves an inspired narrative from personal family legend and characters derived from the tarot deck's Major Arcana. The result is a dynamically staged, alternately somber and spirited exploration of the precarious freedom possible in life and art. (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.
Treefall New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctsf.org. $24-40. Call for dates and times. Through Sun/27. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents a tale of erotic attraction by Henry Murray.
What We're Up Against Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, bldg D; 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org. Wed-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2:30 and 8pm; Sun, 2:30pm; Tues, 7pm. Through March 6. Following the popularity of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius in 2009, Magic Theatre brings the New York playwright back for the world premiere of a decidedly flimsy comedy about sexual discrimination at a busy architecture firm. Eliza (Sarah Nealis) is the bright and brash new employee who finds herself shut out by an old boys network. Sodden boss Stu (Warren David Keith) resents her heartily for her competence and ambition, while ass-kissing power-jockey Weber (James Wagner) uses the leverage for all its worth. Gender solidarity with sole (but soulless) sister Janice (Pamela Gaye Walker) doesn't get Eliza very far either. One guy at the firm, Ben (Rod Gnapp), alone knows better (among what amounts to an unbelievably inept staff). Eliza, meanwhile, crafts a form of revenge from her well-guarded solution to the otherwise stymieing "duct problem" in the plans for a new mall, a major account hitting the skids. Ben's obsession with ducts is something of a key joke here, which ends up being characteristic of a play that stretches its not-very-new conceits thinly over two acts. The glass ceiling, ducts and all, is a bit too transparent in this bloodless production (helmed by artistic director Loretta Greco), leaving precious little to wonder or worry about. (Avila)
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 Sun/27. In his latest monologue (playing in repertory with another, The Last Cargo Cult), Mike Daisey explores the deeper implications of his own, and our, obsession with technology through a parallel look at the career of Apple's megalomaniacal founder, and Daisey's own reconnaissance trip to Apple's manufacturing center in southern China. The story is well-crafted, Daisey's delivery dependably expert—even if his humor occasionally strays into the more obvious, belabored humor of the office water-cooler wag—and the real-world vision of hell he paints in a behemoth suicide-ridden factory called Foxconn (apt if understated name there) all too salient. But the story gives us back as revelation what we already know, surely, about the horrifying labor system behind our various electronic gizmos and much else besides. It's a kind of liberal conceit to play along with the indignation and head back out into the world fully willing to do battle against corporate capital, or at least sign an online petition. As a performer, meanwhile, Daisey has not budged from the formula he originally borrowed from Spalding Gray but made it even more his own. Indeed, to call his approach "indebted" to Gray is like saying the black market iPhone knock-offs he describes are merely an homage to Apple's product. Beside his professed love for the latest high tech wizardry comes this uncanny attachment to the utterly low-tech, analog-monologue style of the late master.
Collapse Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $34-55. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm; Tues, 7pm. Through March 6. Aurora Theatre presents a comedy by Allison Moore.
Seagull Wed, 7:30pm, Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm; Tues, 8pm. Through Sun/27. Marin Theatre Company presents a new translation of Chekhov's great play from former Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Libby Appel. The translation feels crisp and lucid, but artistic director Jasson Minadakis's production remains fairly unmoving despite some effective moments among a skilled cast, including the dependably charismatic Howard Swain (as the doctor). The surprising lack of connection or spark between the principal characters—especially the jaded writer (Craig Marker) and the infatuated, soon-to-be-ruined Masha (an otherwise vivacious Liz Sklar)—results in a dutiful production without that pent-up Chekhovian atmosphere that should envelop and follow you for hours if not days to come. (Avila)
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/28, 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.