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.
Fear SF Playhouse, Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $12-25. Opens Tues/25, 8pm. Runs nightly through Oct 31, 8pm. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs improvised horror stories.
Pellas and Melisande Cutting Ball Theater, Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Previews Fri/21-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 5pm. Opens Oct 27, 8pm. Runs Thurs, 7:30; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through Nov 27. Cutting Ball Theater performs Rob Melrose's new translation of Maurice Maeterlinck's avant-garde classic.
Race American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-85. Previews Fri/28-Sat/22 and Tues/25, 8pm (also Sat/22, 2pm); Sun/23, 7pm. Opens Oct 26, 8pm. Runs Tues-Sat, 8pm (Nov 1, performance at 7pm; also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (no matinee Oct 26; additional show Nov 6 at 7pm). Through Nov 13. ACT performs David Mamet's wicked courtroom comedy.
Richard III Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF; 1-888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com. $35-150. Opens Wed/19, 7:30pm. Runs Tues-Fri, 7:30pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Oct 29. Kevin Spacey plays the lead in this Sam Mendes-directed production of the Shakespeare classic.
The Rover, or the Banish'd Cavaliers, The American Clock Hastings Studio Theater, 77 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10 ($15 for both productions). Oct 19-Nov 5, performance times vary. American Conservatory Theater's Masters of Fine Arts program presents plays in repertory by Aphra Behn and Arthur Miller.
Savage in Limbo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Opens Wed/21, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 3. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs John Patrick Shanley's edgy comedy.
You Will Gonna Go Crazy Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $7-17. Opens Fri/21, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Oct 30. Kularts presents a multimedia dance-theater play.
Doubt: A Parable Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Opens Fri/21, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm; Nov 13, 2pm. Through Nov 19. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer-winning drama.
Rambo: The Missing Years Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Thurs/20, 7pm. Runs Thurs-Fri, 7pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Dec 10. Howard "Hanoi Howie" Petrick presents his solo show about being an anti-war demostrator — while also serving in the Army.
Sam's Enchanted Evening TheaterStage at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Thurs/20, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Nov 26. The Residents wrote the script and did the musical arrangements for this musical, featuring singer Randy Rose and pianist Joshua Raoul Brody.
"AfroSolo Arts Festival" Various venues, SF; www.afrosolo.org. Free-$100. Through Thurs/20. The AfroSolo Theatre Company presents its 18th annual festival celebrating African American artists, musicians, and performers.
Almost Nothing, Day of Absence Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post, SF; (415) 474-8800, www.lhtsf.org. $43-53. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Nov 20. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre performs one-act plays by Marcos Barbosa and Douglas Turner Ward.
Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief Boxcar Theatre Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $15-35. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Nov 5. Written in 1979 by a 28-year-old Paula Vogel, Desdemona retells a familiar Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, through the eyes of its more marginalized characters, much as Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead did with Hamlet in 1966. In Vogel's play, it is the women of Othello — Desdemona the wife, Emilia her attendant (demoted down to washer-woman in Vogel's piece), and Bianca, Cassio's lover, and the bawdy town pump — who are the focus, and are the play's only onstage characters. Whiling away an endless afternoon cooped up in the back room of the governor's mansion, the flighty, spoiled, and frankly promiscuous Desdemona (Karina Wolfe) frets over the loss of her "crappy little snot-rag," while her subservient, pious, but quietly calculating washer-woman Emilia (Adrienne Krug) scrubs the sheets and mends the gubernatorial underpants with an attitude perfectly balanced between aggrieved, disapproving, and cautiously optimistic. Though the relationship between the two women often veers into uncomfortable condescension from both sides, their repartee generally feels natural and uncontrived. Less successfully portrayed is Theresa Miller's Bianca, whose Cockney accent is wont to slip, and whose character's boisterous nature feels all too frequently subdued. Jenn Scheller's billowing, laundry-line set softens the harsh edges of the stage, just as Emilia's final act of service for her doomed mistress softens, though not mitigates, her unwitting role in their mutual downfall. (Gluckstern)
Honey Brown Eyes SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-50. Tues-Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through Nov 5. Bosnia in 1992 is divided in a horrifying civil war, some characteristics of which play out in parallel circumstances for two members of a single rock band in SF Playhouse's west coast premiere of Stefanie Zadravec's new play. In the first act, set in Visegrad, a young Bosnian Muslim woman (Jennifer Stuckert) is held at gunpoint in her kitchen by a jumpy soldier (Nic Grelli) engaged in a mission of murder and dispossession known as ethnic cleansing. The second act moves to Sarajevo and the apartment of an elderly woman (Wanda McCaddon) who gives shelter and a rare meal to an army fugitive (Chad Deverman). He in turn keeps the bereaved if indomitable woman company. Director Susi Damilano and cast are clearly committed to Zadravec's ambitious if hobbled play, but the action can be too contrived and unrealistic (especially in act one) to be credible while the tone — zigzagging between the horror of atrocity and the offbeat gestures of romantic comedy — comes over as confused indecision rather than a deliberate concoction. (Avila)
The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Nov 13. Acclaimed solo performer Don Reed (East 14th) premieres his new show, based on his post-Oakland years living in Los Angeles.
Making Porn Box Car Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-50. Thurs, 8pm; Fri-Sun, 7pm (also Fri-Sat, 10pm). Through Oct 29. Ronnie Larsen brings back his crowd-pleasing comedy about the gay porn industry.
"Master Harold" ... and the Boys Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.offbroadwaywest.org. $18-40. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. Off Broadway West Theatre Company performs Athol Fugard's South African-set drama.
Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thurs/19-Fri/21, 8pm; Sat/22, 8:30pm; Sun/23, 3pm. 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. (Avila)
Nymph Errant Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson, SF; (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. $20-50. Wed, 7pm; Thurs/19-Fri/21, 8pm; Sat/22, 6pm; Sun/23, 3pm. 42nd Street Moon performs Cole Porter's madcap 1933 musical.
*The Odyssey Aboard Alma, Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, SF; www.weplayers.org. $160. Oct 28-29, Nov 4-6, 11-12, and 18, 12:30pm. Heralding their hugely ambitious Spring 2012 production of The Odyssey, which will take place all over Angel Island, the WE Players are tackling the work on a slightly smaller scale by staging it on the historic scow schooner Alma, which is part of the Maritime National Historical Park fleet docked at the end of Hyde Street Pier. Using both boat and Bay as setting, the essential chapters of the ten-year voyage — encounters with the Cyclops, Circe, the Underworld, the Sirens, Aeolus, the Laestrygonians, and Calypso — are enacted through an intriguing mash-up of narration, choreography, sea chanteys, salty dog stories (like shaggy dog stories, but more water-logged), breathtaking views, and a few death-defying stunts the likes of which you won't see on many conventional stages. High points include the casual swapping of roles (every actor gets to play Odysseus, however briefly), Ross Travis' masked and flatulent Prometheus and sure-footed Hermes, Ava Roy's hot pants-clad Circe, Charlie Gurke's steady musical direction and multi-instrumental abilities, and the sail itself, an experiential bonus. Landlubbers beware, so much time facing the back of the boat where much of the action takes place can result in mild quease, even on a calm day. Take advantage of the downtime between scenes to walk around and face forward now and again. You'll want to anyway. (Gluckstern)
On the Air Pier 29 on the Embarcadero (at Battery), SF; (415) 438-2668, love.zinzanni.org. $117 and up (includes dinner). Wed-Sat, 6pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Dec 31. Teatro ZinZanni's final performance at Pier 39 riffs on the company's own struggles to stay in San Francisco. Geoff Hoyle and Duffy Bishop are the headlining guest stars.
*red, black & GREEN: a blues (rbGb) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. $5-25. Thurs/19-Sat/22, 7:30pm. This remarkably protean new piece from Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project searches for common ground between the environmental movement at large and movements for social justice rooted in poor communities of color (where ecological crisis is only one among multiple life-threatening issues). Structured as a vibrant multimedia installation and performance work at once, red, black & green transforms co-commissioner YBCA's Forum stage into an evolving environment audiences can walk through and linger in, as performers Bamuthi Joseph, Theaster Gates, Tommy Shepherd, and Traci Tolmaire deliver a multifaceted narrative road-trip through Chicago, Huston, New York, and West Oakland, following the "Life Is Living" festivals bringing arts, education, and activism to urban parks. The highly attuned ensemble conveys and accentuates this narrative with a commanding mix of firsthand accounts, poetry, dance, song, and percussion (tapped out on surfaces with fingers, palms, or carving knives). Theaster Gates' gorgeous set design, meanwhile, blends repurposed materials into mobile environments — floating island habitats beautifully lit by James Clotfelter, decorated with sculpture and video designs (evocative media collages composed by David Szlasa), and continually reconfigured as neighborhoods, shotgun houses, storefronts, and other environs. Intended to provoke discussion about social justice struggles in the age of environmental crisis, the production's ambitious balancing of history, contemporary politics, center and periphery, personal idealism and doubt, and individual voices feels perhaps inevitably uneven and incomplete, but the attempt is frequently bracing and the delivery as sure as it is urgent. (Avila)
"San Francisco Olympians Festival" Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, SF; www.sfolympians.com. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 28. No Nude Men Productions presents a festival of 12 new full-length plays written by 14 local writers. Each play focuses on one of the Olympian characters from ancient Greece.
ShEvil Dead Cellspace, 2050 Bryant, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25. Fri/21 and Oct 28-29, 8pm. Primitive Screwheads return with a horror play (in which the audience is literally sprayed with blood, so leave the fancy suit at home!) based on the Evil Dead movies.
"Shocktoberfest 12: Fear Over Frisco" Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; (415) 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com. $25-35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. In its annual season-scented horror bid, Thrillpeddlers joins forces with SF's Czar of Noir, writer-director Eddie Muller, for a sharply penned triplet of plays that resurrect lurid San Francisco lore as flesh-and-blood action. In the slightly sluggish but intriguing Grand Inquisitor, a solitary young woman modeling herself on Louise Brooks in Lulu (an alluringly Lulu-like Bonni Suval) believes she has located the Zodiac killer's widow (a sweet but cagey Mary Gibboney) — a scenario that just can't end well for somebody, yet manages to defy expectations. An Obvious Explanation turns on an amnesiac (Daniel Bakken) whose brother (Flynn de Marco) explains the female corpse in the rollaway (Zelda Koznofski) before asking bro where he hid a certain pile of money. Enter a brash doctor (Suval) with a new drug and ambitions of her own vis-à-vis the hapless head case. Russell Blackwood directs The Drug, which adapts a Grand Guignol classic to the hoity-toity milieu of the Van Nesses and seedy Chinatown opium dens, where a rough-playing attorney (an ever persuasive Eric Tyson Wertz) determines to turn a gruesome case involving the duplicitous Mrs. Van Ness (an equally sure, sultry Kära Emry) to his own advantage. The evening also offers a blackout spook show and some smoothly atmospheric musical numbers, including Muller's rousing "Fear Over Frisco" (music composed by Scrumbly Koldewyn; accompaniment by Steve Bolinger and Birdie-Bob Watt) and an aptly low-down Irving Berlin number — both winningly performed by the entire company. (Avila)
Sorya! A Minor Miracle (Part One) NOHSpace, Project Artaud, 2840 Mariposa, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $12-18. Sun/23-Mon/24, 7pm. Each year, NOHspace residents Theatre of Yugen present a program of short Kyogen and Noh pieces, demonstrating the building blocks that define their unique approach. Blending classical Japanese theatrical styles with original and contemporary works, the company's multi-cultural ensemble has been performing their specialized brand of East-West fusion since 1978. This year's Sorya! program includes two modern-day works written by Greg Giovanni, a Philadelphia-based playwright and Noh artist, directed by Theatre of Yugen artistic director Jubilith Moore, and one traditional comedy, Boshibari (Tied to a Pole), directed by company founder Yuriko Doi. This piece is by far the strongest of the three, a tale of two servants pulling one over their master, who has tied them up in order to prevent them from breaking into the sake cellar. Lluis Valls and Sheila Berotti as Taro and Jiro execute the highly-ritualized aspects of the Kyogen farce with deft mobility and expressiveness, working together to overcome their captivity just enough to enjoy a few drinks before being discovered by their irate master (Sheila Devitt). The other two pieces, one set in Narnia and the other based on an Irish folk ballad, are less compelling, though no less ambitious, and Stephen Siegel and Karen Marek's joint performance as a pair of squabbling dwarves is worthy of praise. (Gluckstern)
*Tutor: Enter the Enclave Exit Studio, 156 Eddy, SF; (415) 673-3847, www.darkporchtheatre.com. $15-25. Thurs/19-Sat/22, 8pm. Dark Porch Theatre performs Martin Schwartz's play, inspired by an 18th century German drama, about a tutor who realizes the creepy family he works for is not quite what they seem.
*Wallflower Little Theatre, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway, SF; creativearts.sfsu.edu. $8-12. Thurs/20-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 2pm. One by one a baker's dozen appears in the otherwise abandoned gymnasium: high schoolers in their awkward finery all fleeing prom night, which rages away on the other side of the wall like a blast furnace and shrieks like a jet engine every time the double doors are thrown open in escape. Here, in relative silence and stillness, begins a dream-dance of its own, largely wordless but speaking volumes through a brilliantly devised choreography of hesitation, alienation, attraction, and repulsion — the push-and-pull of fear and desire epitomized by adolescence in all its desperate and beautiful vulnerability (but of course from this school no one ever really graduates). At turns hilarious, raucous, wrenching, and sweetly, smolderingly sensual, Wallflower is another must-see collaboration between Bay Area director Mark Jackson and a remarkably adept cast and crew from San Francisco State's theater department — collaborations that have blazed a regular path out to Lakeside for discriminating theatergoers. Like last year's stunning Juliet, Wallflower draws equal inspiration from Shakespeare (here A Midsummer Night's Dream) and the personal insecurities and compulsions offered up by the performers themselves. Impressively designed throughout — including a choice and supple sound design by Teddy Hulsker — this dance-theater performance is an elating mixture of flooring choreography and the mesmerizing personalities and relationships registered in the subtlest of words and gestures. It's all as enchanting and revelatory as the intoxicating dream it describes. (Avila)
Bellwether Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatre.org. $34-55. Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs/20, 1pm; Oct 29, 2pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Oct 30. Marin Theatre Company performs Steve Yockey's spooky fairy tale for adults.
Clementine in the Lower 9 TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-69. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Oct 30. TheatreWorks presents the world premiere of Dan Dietz's post-Katrina New Orleans drama.
*A Delicate Balance Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-48. Wed/19-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 2 and 7pm. Aurora Theatre performs Edward Albee's comedy of manners.
How to Write a New Book for the Bible Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; no matinee Sat/22; no show Nov 18); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 7pm). Through Nov 20. Berkeley Rep performs a world premiere by Bill Cain.
Inanna's Descent Codornices Park, 1201 Euclid, Berk; www.raggedwing.org. Free. Sat-Sun, 1pm. Through Oct 30. Special Halloween show Oct 31, 5-8pm. After last year's memorable presentation of the Persephone myth as a site-specific, Halloween-heralding, multi-disciplinary performance in the wooded glades of Codornices Park, it seemed inevitable that Ragged Wing Ensemble would want to build on that success by following it up with an equally memorable exploration of another mythological underworld. This year's chosen subject, the descent of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, Queen of the Heavens into the Underworld where her jealous sister Ereshkigal reigns, is enacted as a half-hour play as well as a self-guided, seven-station circuit around the park, from the tunnel to the fire pit, where the central performance is held. Each station is hosted by a different character from the play, who engages each passing audience member in a series of activities: from wishing on the future to coloring in a self-portrait of "meat." The play itself stars Kelly Rinehart as Inanna, "the bombshell of the story," who appears onstage clad in a dress of shredded reflective insulate and a giant leonine headdress. The other ensemble-created costumes are cleverly constructed of equally non-biodegradable materials: a faux-fur cloak decorated with remote controls, robes of state made entirely from rustling plastic shopping bags, a bandolier of empty water bottles. More genial and thought-provoking than a typical trip to a haunted house, Inanna's Descent is an inventive Halloween expedition for children of most ages, and adults with young hearts. (Gluckstern)
*Phaedra Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $17-26. Wed/19-Thurs/20, 7pm; Fri/21-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 5pm. Catherine (Catherine Castellanos) is the loveless matron in the impeccably tidy, upper-class home of middle-aged right-wing judge Antonio (Keith Burkland), secretly infatuated with her stepson (Patrick Alparone), the prodigal returning home from jail and rehab for a new start. Catherine's cold, obsessively ordered run of the household — with heavy-lifting by her cheerful, steadfast housekeeper (a wonderfully genuine Trish Mulholland) — masks a desolation and chaos inside her, a churning emptiness evoked in the deliberately listless pace of act one and the skudding clouds we can see reflected in the walls of designer Nina Ball's impressively stolid, icily tasteful living room. Portland Center Stage's Rose Riordan directs a strong cast (which includes Cindy Im, as the stepson's rehab partner and sexual interest) in a modern-day adaptation of the Greek myth by Adam Bock (The Shaker Chair, Swimming in the Shallows), in a worthy premiere for Shotgun Players. The drama comes leavened by Bock's well-developed humor and the dialogue, while inconsistent, can be eloquent. The storm that breaks in the second act, however, feels a bit compressed and, especially after the languid first act, contributes to a somewhat pinched narrative. But whatever its limitations, Catherine's predicament is palpably dramatic, especially in Castellanos's deeply moving performance — among her best work to date and alone worth giving Phaedra a chance. (Avila)
*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)
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun, 11am. Through Nov 20. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
*"PanderFest 2011" Stage Werx 446, 446 Valencia, SF; www.panderexpress.com. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 29. $20. San Francisco's Crisis Hopkins and (PianoFight's S.H.I.T. Show makers) Mission Control join forces for a tag-team evening of sketch and "improv" (quotes kind of necessary this time). Claiming dubiously to fill a need for yet another festival in this city (though at the same time striving for above-average fawning of the public), the show delivers two acts of mostly spot-on comedy by two agreeable ensembles and is thus a fine night out anyway. The program (based rather loosely on online-video–generated audience suggestions, interspersed with the sneezing Panda baby and other YouTube perennials) also inaugurates Stage Werx's cozy new Mission District venue — the former digs of Intersection for the Arts and a huge improvement over Stage Werx's old subterranean lair on Sutter Street. Highlights of a ridiculous evening include a two-part Crisis Hopkins sketch detailing a site visit by a ball-wrecking contractor (Christy Daly) to her chary foreman (Sam Shaw) and his withering cherries; and Mission Control's pointed '70s TV show homage with a twist, Good Cop, Stab Cop. (Avila)