American Buffalo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Opens Fri/22, 8 p.m. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 27. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs the David Mamet crime classic.
"Bay Area Playwrights Festival" Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.playwrightsfoundation.org. $20. July 22-31. Staged readings of works by seven emerging playwrights.
Communicating Doors Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Opens Fri/22, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm; Aug 14, 2pm. Through Aug 20. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs Alan Ayckbourn's "time-travel-battle-of-the-sexes comedy."
Act One, Scene Two SF Playhouse, Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 20. Un-Scripted Theater Company hosts a different playwright each night, performing the first scene of an unfinished play and then improvising its finish.
Assisted Living: The Musical Imperial Palace, 818 Washington, SF; 1-888-88-LAUGH, www.assistedlivingthemusical.com. $79.59-99.50 (includes dim sum). Sat-Sun, noon (also Sun, 5pm). Through July 31. Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett's comedy takes on "the pleasures and perils of later life."
Billy Elliot Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market, SF; www.shnsf.com/shows/billyelliot. $35-200. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Sept. 17. As a Broadway musical, Billy Elliot proves more enjoyable than the film. The movie's T. Rex score may have been a major selling point, but it was a bit maudlin for a story that needed no help in that department. The musical naturally has a sentimental moment or three, but it's much more often funny, muscular in its staging (with repeatedly inspired choreography from Peter Darling), and expansive in its eclectic score (Elton John) and well-wrought book and lyrics (Lee Hall). Moreover, Stephen Daldry (who also directed the 2000 film) plays up bracingly the too-timely class politics of the modest 1980s English mining town besieged by Margaret Thatcher's neoliberal regime in the latter's ultimately successful bid to crush the once-powerful miners union. The cast is likewise very strong. The second act is not as strong as the first, but as crowd-pleasing entertainment the musical burrows deep and more often than not comes up with gold. (Avila)
The Book of Liz Custom Made Theatre, 1620 Gough, SF; www.custommade.org. $10-29. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 31. Custom Made Theatre performs David and Amy Sedaris' comedy about an unconventional nun.
Indulgences in the Louisville Harem Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.offbroadwaywest.org. $20-40. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through July 30. Two spinster sisters find unlikely beaux in Off Broadway West Theatre's production of John Orlock's play.
Left-Handed Darling Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-30. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 13. Foul Play Productions perfomrs the world premiere of Nikita Schoen's Dust Bowl-era drama.
Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thurs/21, 8pm; Sat/23, 8:30pm; Sun/24, 7pm. Marga Gomez presents a workshop production of her new comedy, her ninth solo show.
Salty Towers Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; (415) 673-3847, www.theexit.org. $15-25. Thurs/21-Sat/23, 8pm. Thunderbird Theatre Company performs a farce that combines Greek mythology with a tale of sea creatures running a two-star hotel.
Tales of the City American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $35-98. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Extended through July 31. ACT performs a musical version of Armisted Maupin's beloved San Francisco story.
Tigers Be Still SF Playhouse, 522 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-50. Tues-Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through Sept 10. SF Playhouse performs Kim Rosenstock's quirky comedy.
Twilight Zone Live: Season 8 Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.ticketturtle.com. $20 ($5 discount if you use the code word "maggie"). Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through July 29. The Dark Room Theater presents its eighth annual tribute to classic Twilight Zone episodes.
*Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical Thrillpeddlers' Hypnodrome, 575 10th St; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-35. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 31. Hot on the high heels of a 22-month run of Pearls Over Shanghai, the Thrillpeddlers are continuing their Theatre of the Ridiculous revival with a tits-up, balls-out production of the Cockettes' last musical, Vice Palace. Loosely based on the terrifyingly grim "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, part of the thrill of Palace is the way that it weds the campy drag-glamour of Pearls Over Shanghai with the Thrillpeddlers' signature Grand Guignol aesthetic. From an opening number set on a plague-stricken street ("There's Blood on Your Face") to a charming little cabaret about Caligula, staged with live assassinations, an undercurrent of darkness runs like blood beneath the shameless slapstick of the thinly-plotted revue. As plague-obsessed hostess Divina (Leigh Crow) and her right-hand "gal" Bella (Eric Tyson Wertz) try to distract a group of stir-crazy socialites from the dangers outside the villa walls, the entertainments range from silly to salacious: a suggestively-sung song about camel's humps, the wistful ballad "Just a Lonely Little Turd," a truly unexpected Rite of Spring-style dance number entitled "Flesh Ballet." Sumptuously costumed by Kara Emry, cleverly lit by Nicholas Torre, accompanied by songwriter/lyricist (and original Cockette) Scrumbly Koldewyn, and anchored by a core of Thrillpeddler regulars, Palace is one nice vice. (Gluckstern)
What Mamma Said About Down There SF Downtown Comedy Theater, 287 Ellis, SF; www.sfdowntowncomedytheater.com. $15. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through August 20. Sia Amma returns with her solo comedy.
All My Children Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri/22, 8pm; Sat/23, 8:30pm. Not the soap opera — it's Seattle Improv co-founder Matt Smith in his comedy about a middle-aged man with boundary issues.
East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Aug 7. Don Reed's hit solo comedy receives one last extension before Reed debuts his new show (a sequel to East 14th) in the fall.
Fly By Night Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-69. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Aug 13. TheatreWorks performs the world premiere of Kim Rosentock, Michael Mitnick, and Will Connolly's musical, set in 1965 New York.
Macbeth Dominican University of California, Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 1475 Grand, San Rafael; (415) 499-4488, www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-35. Opens Fri/15, 8pm. Performance times vary; check website for schedule. Through Aug 14. Marin Shakespeare Company takes on the Scottish play, opening under a full moon, no less.
Metamorphosis Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-55. Wed/22-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 2 and 7pm. Aurora Theatre Company performs a terrifying yet comic adaptation of Kafka's classic by David Farr and Gísli Örn Gardarsson.
A Midsummer's Night Dream This week: Dimond Park, 3860 Hanly, Oakl. www.womanswill.org. Free (donations requested). Sat/23-Sun/24, 2pm. Performances continue at Bay Area parks through Aug 21. Woman's Will performs the Shakespeare favorite.
2012: The Musical! This week: Mosswood Park, W. MacArthur and Broadway, Oakl; www.sfmt.org. Free. Sat/23, 2pm. Nicholl Park, Macdonald at 31st St, Richmond. Sun/23, 2pm. Continues through Sept. 25 at various Bay Area venues. San Francisco Mime Troupe mounts their annual summer musical; this year's show is about a political theater company torn between selling out and staying true to its anti-corporate roots.
The Verona Project Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda; (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org. $35-66. Tues-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also July 30, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through July 31. California Shakespeare Theater performs a world-premiere play (inspired by The Two Gentlemen of Verona) by Amanda Dehnert.
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. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks. For complete listings, seewww.sfbg.com.