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.
Absolutely San Francisco Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; (415) 992-8168, www.thealcovetheater.com. $32-50. Schedule varies, through Dec 29. Not Quite Opera Productions presents Anne Nygren Doherty's musical about San Francisco, with five characters all portrayed by Mary Gibboney.
Annapurna Magic Theatre, Bldg D, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org. $20-60. Showtimes vary, through Dec 4. Magic Theatre artistic director Loretta Greco helms this new two-hander by playwright Sharr White about a dying man named Ulysses (Rod Gnapp) who gets an unexpected visit by his ex-wife, Emma (Denise Cormier), who took their young son and left him some 20 years earlier when he was still an alcoholic. Ulysses, a once respected poet living a reclusive life in his trailer home (a cluttered stick-figure set by Andrew Boyce) in a tiny Colorado town, is now dry of drink and published verse — and normally naked too (at the moment Emma shows up he happens to be frying some sausages, so he's got a little apron on as well as an oxygen tube for his dire emphysema). But he has continued to write unanswered letters to his son and composed over years an epic work comparing love to the alluring but deadly mountaintop that gives the play its title. For her part, Emma has left her second husband in another middle-of-the-night flight, but her reasons are a little different this time. We sense she never got over Ulysses either, but there's a nagging urgency to her arrival too related to their now grown-up son, which is gradually revealed in the course of their sometimes too glib or forced interactions. There's more than a whiff of Sam Shepard about this lonely cowboy poet and his estrangement, but the story is not nearly as compelling or suspenseful as a Shepard play, in part because characters and plot are not very believable and the story is bluntly sentimental to boot. (Avila)
*Fela! Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF; www.shnsf.com. $31-200. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm; no show Thurs/24); Sun, 2pm (also Sun/27, 7:30pm). Through Dec 11. The life and music of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti is captured in this show with choreography by Bill T. Jones.
*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. Extended through Dec 18. This new autobiographical solo show by Don Reed, writer-performer of the fine and long-running East 14th, is another slice of the artist's journey from 1970s Oakland ghetto to comedy-circuit respectability — here via a partial debate-scholarship to UCLA. The titular Los Angeles residency hotel was where Reed lived and worked for a time in the 1980s while attending university. It's also a rich mine of memory and material for this physically protean and charismatic comic actor, who sails through two acts of often hilarious, sometimes touching vignettes loosely structured around his time on the hotel's young wait staff, which catered to the needs of elderly patrons who might need conversation as much as breakfast. On opening night, the episodic narrative seemed to pass through several endings before settling on one whose tidy moral was delivered with too heavy a hand, but if the piece runs a little long, it's only the last 20 minutes that noticeably meanders. And even with some awkward bumps along the way, it's never a dull thing watching Reed work. (Avila)
Language Rooms Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-28. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no show Thurs/24); Sun, 7pm. Extended through Dec 11. Golden Thread Productions and Asian American Theater Company present the West Coast premiere of Yussef El Guindi's dark comedy.
Making Porn Box Car Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-50. Fri/25-Sat/26, 9pm; Sun/27, 7pm. Ronnie Larsen brings back his crowd-pleasing comedy about the gay porn industry.
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. Extended through Dec 17. 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)
*On the Air Pier 29 on the Embarcadero (at Battery), SF; (415) 438-2668, love.zinzanni.org. $117 and up (includes dinner). Showtimes vary, through Dec 31. Teatro ZinZanni's final production at its longtime nest on Pier 29 is a nostalgia-infused banquet of bits structured around an old-time radio variety show, featuring headliners Geoff Hoyle (Geezer) and blues singer Duffy Bishop. If you haven't seen juggling on the radio, for instance, it's pretty awesome, especially with a performer like Bernard Hazens, whose footing atop a precarious tower of tubes and cubes is already cringingly extraordinary. But all the performers are dependably first-rate, including Andrea Conway's comic chandelier lunacy, aerialist and enchanting space alien Elena Gatilova's gorgeous "circeaux" act, graceful hand-balancer Christopher Phi, class-act tapper Wayne Doba, and radio MC Mat Plendl's raucously tweeny hula-hooping. Add some sultry blues numbers by raunchy belter Bishop, Hoyle's masterful characterizations (including some wonderful shtick-within-a-shtick as one-liner maestro "Red Bottoms"), a few classic commercials, and a healthy dose of audience participation and you start to feel nicely satiated and ready for a good cigar. Smoothly helmed by ZinZanni creative director Norm Langill, On the Air signals off-the-air for the popular dinner circus — until it can secure a new patch of local real estate for its antique spiegeltent — so tune in while you may. (Avila)
*Pellas and Melisande Cutting Ball Theater, Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Fri/25-Sat/26, 8pm (also Sat/26, 2pm); Sun/27, 5pm. The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, the Swan Maiden: shimmering strands of each timeless tale twist through the melancholy tapestry of the Maurice Maeterlinck play Pelleas and Melisande, which opens Cutting Ball Theater's 12th season. Receiving a lushly atmospheric treatment by director and translator Rob Melrose, this ill-fated Symbolist drama stars Joshua Schell and Caitlyn Louchard as the doomed lovers. Trapped in the claustrophobic environs of an isolated castle at the edge of a forbidding forest and equally trapped in an inadvertent love triangle with the hale and hearty elder prince Golaud (Derek Fischer), Pelleas' brother and Melisande's husband, the desperate, unconsummated passion that builds between the two youngsters rivals that of Romeo and Juliet's, and leads to an ending even more tragic — lacking the bittersweet reconciliation of rival families that subverts the pure melodrama of the Shakespearean classic. Presented on a spare, wooden traverse stage (designed by Michael Locher), and accompanied by a smoothly-flowing score by Cliff Caruthers, the action is enhanced by Laura Arrington's haunting choreography, a silent contortionism which grips each character as they try desperately to convey the conflicting emotions which grip them without benefit of dialogue. Though described by Melrose as a "fairy tale world for adults," the dreamy gauze of Pelleas and Melisande peels away quickly enough to reveal a flinty and unsentimental heart. (Gluckstern)
Savage in Limbo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no show Thurs/24). Through Dec 3. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs John Patrick Shanley's edgy comedy.
SexRev: The José Sarria Experience CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; (415) 552-4100, www.therhino.org. $10-25. Fri/25-Sat/26, 8pm (also Sat/26, 10:30pm); Sun/27, 3pm. Theatre Rhinoceros performs John Fisher's musical celebration of America's first queer activist — a hit for the company in 2010.
Shoot O'Malley Twice StageWerx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.viragotheatre.org. Fri/25-Sat/26, 8pm. Virago Theater Company performs Jon Brooks' world-premiere existential comedy.
A Tale of Two Genres SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat and Dec 20-21, 8pm (no show Thurs/24; additional shows Sat, 3pm). Through Dec 21. Un-Scripted Theater Company presents an improvised musical inspired by Charles Dickens.
The Temperamentals New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 18. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs Jon Marans' drama about gay rights during the McCarthy era.
Totem Grand Chapiteau, AT&T Park, Parking Lot A, 74 Mission Rock, SF; cirquedusoleil.com/totem. $58-248.50. Tues-Sun, schedule varies. Extended through Dec 18. Cirque Du Soleil returns with its latest big-top production.
Two Dead Clowns Box Car Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Fri/25-Sat/26, 7pm. Ronnie Larsen's new play explores the lives of Divine and John Wayne Gacy.
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Fri/25, 8pm; Sat/26, 5pm. Brian Copeland (Not a Genuine Black Man) presents a workshop production of his new solo show.
*Working for the Mouse Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $22. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no performances Thurs/24-Sat/26). Through Dec 17. It might not come as a surprise to hear that even "the happiest place on earth" has a dark side, but hearing Trevor Allen describe it during this reprise of 2002's Working for the Mouse will put a smile on your face as big as Mickey's. With a burst of youthful energy, Allen bounds onto the tiny stage of Impact Theatre to confess his one-time aspiration to never grow up — a desire which made auditioning for the role of Peter Pan at Disneyland a sensible career move. But in order to break into the big time of "charactering," one must pay some heavy, plush-covered dues. As Allen creeps up the costumed hierarchy one iconic cartoon figure at a time, he finds himself unwittingly enmeshed in a world full of backroom politics, union-busting, drug addled surfer dudes with peaches-and-cream complexions, sexual tension, showboating, job suspension, Make-A-Wish Foundation heartbreak, hash brownies, rabbit vomit, and accidental decapitation. Smoothly paced and astutely crafted, Mouse will either shatter your blissful ignorance or confirm your worst suspicions about the corporate Disney machine, but either way, it will probably make you treat any "Casual Seasonal Pageant Helpers" you see running around in their sweaty character suits with a whole lot more empathy. (Note: review from the show's recent run at La Val's Subterranean in Berkeley.) (Gluckstern)
Annie Berkeley Playhouse, Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (510) 845-8542, www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-35. Thurs-Sat, 7pm; Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Dec 4. Berkeley Playhouse performs the classic musical.
Rambo: The Missing Years Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thurs-Fri, 7pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Dec 10. Howard "Hanoi Howie" Petrick presents his solo show about being an anti-war demonstrator — 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. Fri/25, 8pm; Sat/26, 8:30pm. The Residents wrote the script and did the musical arrangements for this musical, featuring singer Randy Rose and pianist Joshua Raoul Brody.
The Soldier's Tale Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-55. Tues, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 18. Aurora Theatre presents a re-imagined version of Igor Stravinsky's 1918 musical by Tom Ross and Muriel Maffre.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun and Fri/25-Sat/26 and Dec 26-30, 11am (no show Dec 25). Through Dec 31. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
Russell Brand Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.slimstickets.com. Tues, 8pm. $50-125. The bawdy comedian performs to benefit the David Lynch Foundation.
Carolina Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sun, 6:15pm. $15-19. Spain comes to North Beach with footwork, song, castanets, hand-clapping, and guitar.
Mark Foehringer Dance Project | SF Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat-Sun, 11am, 2pm, 4pm (no 4pm show Sun/27); Dec 20-23, 11am and 2pm. Through Dec 23. $20-35. The contemporary ballet company performs Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets.
ODC/Dance Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.odcdance.org. Fri/25-Sun/27, Dec 4, and 11, 2pm; Dec 1-2 and 8-9, 11am; Dec 3 and 10, 1 and 4pm; $15-45. The company presents the 25th anniversary of KT Nelson's The Velveteen Rabbit.
"San Francisco Theater Pub" Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; (415) 641-6033. Mon, 7:30pm. Free. A new play by Brian Markey.