Alice Down the Rwong Wrabbit Whole Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF; (415) 500-2323, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15. Opens Fri/23, 9pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 9pm. Through Oct 15. Karen Light and Edna Barrón perform their new comedy based on Alice in Wonderland.
Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief Boxcar Theatre Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $15-35. Previews Sun/25, 3pm; Mon/26-Tues/27 and Sept 29, 8pm. Opens Sept 30, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Nov 5. Boxcar Theatre performs Pauls Vogel's dark comedy, inspired by the three female characters from Shakespeare's Othello.
Killing My Lobster Conquers the Galaxy The Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida, SF; www.killingmylobster.com. $10-20. Opens Thurs/22, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat-Sun, 7pm (also Sat, 10pm). Through Oct 9. The sketch comedy troupe returns with a sci-fi show.
Once in a Lifetime American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-85. Previews Thurs/22-Sat/24 and Tues/27, 8pm (also Sat/24, 2pm). Opens Sept 28, 8pm. Runs Tues-Sat, 8pm (Oct 7 performance at 7pm); Wed and Sat-Sun, 2pm (no matinees Sun/25 or Sept 28; additional performance Oct 2 at 7pm). Through Oct 16. ACT performs a revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's 1939 Hollywood satire.
"Shocktoberfest 12: Fear Over Frisco" Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; (415) 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com. $25-35. Previews Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm. Opens Sept 29, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. The Thrillpeddlers' 12th annual Grand Guignol fest features three "noir-horror" plays by noted noir expert Eddie Muller.
Phaedra Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $17-26. Previews Wed/21-Thurs/22, 7pm; Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (starting Oct 5, also runs Wed, 7pm). Through Oct 23. Shotgun Players perform Adam Bock's modern adaptation of the Racine classic.
The Taming of the Shrew Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Wy, Orinda; (510) 809-3290, www.calshakes.org. $35-66. Previews Wed/21-Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Tues-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Oct 1, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through Oct 16. California Shakespeare Theatre's last show of the season is a high-fashion, pop-art take on Shakespeare's battle of the sexes.
"AfroSolo Arts Festival" Various venues, SF; www.afrosolo.org. Free-$100. Through Oct 20. The AfroSolo Theatre Company presents its 18th annual festival celebrating African American artists, musicians, and performers.
All Atheists Are Muslim Stage Werx Theatre, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 517-3581, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 1. On the TV, CNN carries the dismal thumping of the Bush gang for more war. In the living room, a father and daughter are in a standoff over a proposed live-in boyfriend. It's 2005, and a clash of generations, as Zahra tries to convince her immigrant Iranian American Muslim father that her white infidel boyfriend Duncan would make an ideal roommate. For her Muslim father, "the Duncan" has plenty of acceptable virtues — even his professed atheism is hardly an insurmountable obstacle to dad, who doesn't seem to recognize the word but is sure it translates into a wishy-washy approach to the divine through an enthusiastic appreciation for gravity. But moving in together is a different story. How it plays out is the heart of comedian and solo performer Zahra Noorbakhsh's uneven but charming and funny take on a familiar American family dynamic whose particular ethnic flavor includes a mild but timely geopolitical aroma. Playing herself as well as her loving mother, her bounding and big-hearted father (with his priceless Persian accent), and her good-natured but recalcitrant boyfriend, Noorbakhsh celebrates the immigrant experience while beating back the age's pernicious appeal to stereotype and xenophobia with the far more realistic metaphor of a nice, crazy family dinner. (Avila)
American Buffalo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no show Thurs/22). Extended through Oct 8. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs the David Mamet crime classic.
Cymbeline Parade Ground Lawn, Main Post, Presidio (between Graham and Keyes), SF; www.sfshakes.org. Free. Sat/24, 7:30pm; Sun/25, 2:30pm. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents its annual "Free Shakespeare in the Park" performance.
Hunter's Point St. Boniface Church Theater, 175 Golden Gate, SF; www.strangeangelstheater.org. $15-25 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Fri/23-Sat/24 and Sept 28-Oct 1, 7pm (also Fri/23, 2pm). Strange Angels Theater in collaboration with Jump! Theatre performs Elizabeth Gjelten's musical drama about homelessness.
Joy With Wings: A Daughter's Tale Alcove Theater, 415 Mason, Fifth Flr, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $32-50. Wed-Thurs, 8pm. Through Oct 6. Chaucer Theater performs Becky Parker's drama about a mother's love.
Night Over Erzinga South Side Theatre, Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; (415) 345-7575, www.goldenthread.org. $20-100. Thurs, 8:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Oct 9. Golden Thread Productions' season opener is the result of its first-ever Middle East America new play initiative (co-presented with Chicago's Silk Road Theatre Project and New York's Lark Play Development Center): playwright Adriana Sevahn Nichols' story of three generations in an Armenian American family struggling with a history of violence, dispossession, and the tensions between individual and collective destiny in the modern world. The play begins at an overly dramatic pitch as a young woman (Sarita Ocón) summons the spirits of her grandparents. Director Hafiz Karmali's staging is deliberately spare and sensible throughout, though this initial action feels alternately stiff and shuffling, and the recorded music can be overbearing, as the roots of a family saga are laid immediately before and after the 1915 genocide. But the second act settles into a surer and more engaging mode and tempo, as Ava (a sharp Juliet Tanner in a nicely shaded performance), rebellious American daughter of two Armenian exiles (Terry Lamb and Neva Marie Hutchinson), pursues a career as a popular dancer and singer and ends up estranged from her father for years (her mother, sole survivor of a massacred Armenian family, spends her latter years in a mental institution). Wooed by a charming Dominican crooner (an adept, appealing Brian Trybom), Ava starts a family of her own. While pregnant with daughter Estrella (the young, spirited Natalie Amanian), she re-establishes a shaky relationship with her repentant father. Old wounds and buried histories insure reconciliation won't be easy, but the truth alone shows the way back to a sense of connection and communion for a family severed by injustice and unmoored in the drift of immigrant America. (Avila)
Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Oct 23. Marga Gomez is back at the Marsh, a couple of too-brief decades after inaugurating the theater's new stage with her first solo show — an apt setting, in other words, for the writer-performer's latest monologue, a reflection on the inevitable process of aging for a Latina lesbian comedian and artist who still hangs at Starbucks and can't be trusted with the details of her own Wikipedia entry. If the thought of someone as perennially irreverent, insouciant, and appealingly immature as Gomez makes you depressed, the show is, strangely enough, the best antidote. Her narrative careens wildly from character-filled childhood memories (the earliest traumas on down) and stand-up-like shtick that turns over well-worn subject matter like babies with freshly piquant musings (idea for an "it get better" campaign for infants: you'll be able to wipe yourself and chew your own food). There's even something like wisdom, or anyway historical curiosity, in her skewed nostalgia for such childhood ephemera as Freedomland, a doomed Bronx-based Disneyland alternative Gomez is old enough to remember visiting. Needless to say, she looks and acts very good for her age, whatever it is exactly (there are, typically, no straight answers here).
The Odyssey Aboard Alma, Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, SF; www.weplayers.org. $160. Oct 1, 28-29, Nov 4-6, 11-12, and 18, 12:30pm. This "full afternoon adventure" (12:30-5pm) includes a sailing performance of tales from Homer by We Players (aboard an 1891 scow schooner), plus a light meal.
*Patience Worth Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; (415) 456-8892, www.symmetrytheatre.com. $20-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Oct 2. In the second decade of the 20th century, a young new St. Louis bride named Pearl Curran (Megan Trout), looking to rise above her humble Ozarks upbringing yet with hopeless aspirations to be a singer, suddenly began channeling the spirit of a 16th-century woman named Patience Worth. The rest was literary history, here uncovered and subtly examined by playwright Michelle Carter in Symmetry Theatre Company's thoughtful, gradually stirring world premiere, its second production after last year's strong debut (with Anthony Clarvoe's Show and Tell). Introduced to Patience by Emily Hutchings (Elena Wright) and her Ouija board, Pearl soon displaces the chagrined Hutchings — who has literary aspirations of her own she pedals doggedly to the leading publisher of the day (Warren David Keith) — and inverts the patriarchal order as her much older husband (Keith) plays stenographer to the virtuosic verbosity of the spirit. When she adopts a child for Patience whome she names Patience Wee (Alona Bach), she drives the desperately lonely young girl into the arms of her equally isolated mother (Jessica Powell) toward an unexpected and terrible inspiration. Director Erika Chong Shuch sets her able cast (headed by Trout's sure take on a complex figure) atop an area rug backed by a line of trees and strewn over the bare earth, like a floating island of bourgeois respectability amid a wild and mysterious sea of natural and supernatural impulses, in a complex tale of female liberation that intersects with questions of fame, status, self-invention, ventriloquism, and a dark bargain with destiny that has something quintessentially American about it. (Avila)
Show Ho New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $20-32. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Oct 9, 2pm. Through Oct 9. Sara Moore performs her multi-character story about a clown in a low-rent circus.
Turandot War Memorial Opera House, 201 Van Ness, SF; (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com. $21-389. Thurs/22 and Oct 4, 7:30pm; Sun/25, 2pm; Oct 1, 8pm. The San Francisco Opera performs Puccini's classic in conjunction with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
*A Delicate Balance Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-48. Tues, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Extended through Oct 16. Aurora Theatre performs Edward Albee's comedy of manners.
Madhouse Rhythm Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Thurs, 7:30pm. Extended through Oct 6. Joshua Walters performs his hip-hop-infused autobiographical show about his experiences with bipolar disorder.
Of Dice and Men La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 1. Impact Theatre performs Cameron McNary's comedy about a group of adult Dungeons and Dragons players.
*Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Tues-Sun, showtimes vary. Through Oct 30. The life of stage and screen legend Rita Moreno is a subject that has no trouble filling two swift and varied acts, especially as related in anecdote, song, comedy, and dance by the serene multiple–award-winning performer and Berkeley resident herself. Indeed, that so much material gets covered so succinctly but rarely abruptly is a real achievement of this attractively adorned autobiographical solo show crafted with playwright and Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone. (Avila)
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.