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.
Cinderella Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.african-americanshakes.org. $10-35. Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/10, 3pm); Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 18. African-American Shakespeare Company opens its season with a re-telling of the fairy tale set in the bayous of Louisiana.
Dr. Strangelove: LIVE Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. $20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 17. Stage adaptation of Stanley Kubrick's classic cold war comedy.
*Fela! Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF; www.shnsf.com. $31-200. Wed/7-Sat/10, 8pm (also Wed/7 and Sat/10, 2pm); Sun/11, 2pm. Director-choreographer Bill T. Jones's highly successful Off-Broadway to Broadway musical (with book by Jones and Jim Lewis; additional lyrics by Lewis; and additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean) proves worth the hype. With a prodigious performance at the center of it all by Sahr Ngaujah (rotating in the title role with Adesola Osakalumi), this is less a biography than euphoric and vehement musical party, sermon, and political rally at once. At the same time, enough of the career and times of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (1938–1997) come through — amid a gorgeous video-enhanced street-art design scheme, and ecstatic live music and choreography deployed with contagious bravado — that there is no missing the contemporary relevance in the Nigerian Afrobeat legend and popular activist-outlaw who stood up for a devastated population against the Western imperialism and international corporate tyranny fronted by Nigeria's oil-trading military regime. The only thing that would make this show better would be seeing it down at an Occupy encampment. (Avila)
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes Victoria Theatre 2961 16th St, SF; www.trannyshack.com. $30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 23. Despite the unseasonably warm weather last week, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, circa 1987, thanks to the return of four luminous drag queens and a little TV-to-stage holiday special that, after six years, can safely be called a San Francisco tradition. Heklina (Dorothy), Pollo Del Mar (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), and Cookie Dough (Sophia) are the older ladies of Miami, delivering verbatim two episodes of the famed sitcom, each with a special gay yuletide theme — fleshed out by special guests Laurie Bushman (as Blanche's gay kid brother Clayton) and Manuel Caneri (as thinly disguised lesbian Jean). (Opening night also saw special appearances by morning-radio personalities and emcees Fernando Ventura and Greg Sherrell.) Of course, a Word for Word production this isn't. Knowing drag mischief and unflappable performances allow a certain welcome latitude in attitude, not to mention costuming, which is wonderful in that Pasadena estate sale way: a veritable bazaar of '80s bizarre. (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. 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)
Ladies in Waiting Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.horrorunspeakable.com. $20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 17. No Nude Men Productions presents three one-acts by Alison Luterman, Claire Rice, and Hilde Susan Jaegtnes.
Language Rooms Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-28. Thurs/8-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 7pm. The immigrant experience has some familiar familial dynamics across the board. Parents, for instance, can easily discover their Americanized children becoming embarrassed by the older generation's "foreign" ways. Allegiances potentially strain much further, however, when the immigrant story gets entwined with a little narrative called the "war on terror." That's the volatile mixture at the center of Yussef El Guindi's Language Rooms, a somewhat uneven but ultimately worthwhile new play that leverages absurdist comedy to interrogate the perversion of basic human sympathies post-9/11. Seattle-based playwright El Guindi (whose other Bay Area productions include Back of the Throat and the hilarious Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes) well knows that the transformation of nightmare into bureaucratic routine is a reality sometimes best broached in a comic vein. (Avila)
The Last Five Years Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 18. Poor Man's Players performs Jason Robert Brown's relationship drama as its inaugural production.
Mommy Queerest Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 17. Kat Evasco performs her autobiographical show about being the lesbian daughter of a lesbian mother.
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)
*Period of Adjustment SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-50. Tues-Thurs, 7pm (also Dec 21-22, 2pm); Fri-Sat, 9pm (also Sat, 3pm; no show Dec 24). Through Jan 14. A nervous young man with an unaccountable tremor, George Haverstick (a compellingly manic Patrick Alparone) has waited until his honeymoon to finally call on his old Korean War buddy, Ralph (a stout but tender Johnny Moreno) — only to drop his new bride, Isabel (the terrifically quick and sympathetic MacKenzie Meehan), at the doorstep and hurry away. As it happens, Ralph's wife of five years, Dorothea (an appealing Maggie Mason), has just quit him and taken their young son with her, turning the family Christmas tree and its uncollected gifts into a forlorn monument to a broken home — which, incidentally, has a tremor of its own, having been built atop a vast cavern. Tennessee Williams calls his 1960 play "a serious comedy," which is about right, since although things end on a warm and cozy note, the painful crises of two couples and the lost natures of two veterans — buried alive in two suburbs each called "High Point" — are the stuff of real distress. SF Playhouse artistic director Bill English gets moving but clear-eyed, unsentimental performances from his strong cast — bolstered by Jean Forsman and Joe Madero as Dorothea's parents—whose principals do measured justice to the complex sexual and psychological tensions woven throughout. If not one of Williams's great plays, this is an engaging and surprisingly memorable one just the same, with the playwright's distinctive blend of the metaphorical and concrete. As a rare snowfall blankets this Memphis Christmas Eve, 1958, something dark and brooding lingers in the storybook cheer. (Avila)
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 (also 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.
Three Sisters Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. $20-50. Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm (also Sat/10, 1pm); Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 18. 42nd Street Moon performs Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's World War I-set musical.
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.
The Treasure of the Himawari Shrine: Another Mr. YooWho Adventure NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $5-18. Fri-Sat, 7pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 18. Master clown Moshe Cohen's creation Mr. YooWho returns with a Japan-set adventure.
*Working for the Mouse Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $22. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. 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)
Xanadu New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Previews Wed/7-Fri/9, 8pm. Opens Sat/10, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Jan 15. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the retro roller-skating musical.
*The Glass Menagerie Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $34-55. Runs Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Dec 17, 2pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 18. Marin Theatre Company performs the Tennessee Williams classic.
God's Plot Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $18-27. Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (starting Dec 15, also runs Wed, 7pm). Through Jan 15. Writer-director Mark Jackson's historical drama, set in 1665 Virginia, closes out Shotgun Players' 20th anniversary season.
Rambo: The Missing Years Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thurs/8-Fri/9, 7pm; Sat/10, 8:30pm. Howard "Hanoi Howie" Petrick presents his solo show about being an anti-war demonstrator — while also serving in the Army.
The Secret Garden TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-72. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; Dec 24, shows at 1 and 6pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 31. TheatreWorks performs the Tony Award-winning musical adaptaion of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel.
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. It has all the hallmarks of greatness: puppetry, finely-honed chamber music, a noteworthy composer, a fresh translation, a prima ballerina, a note-worthy cast and crew, and an enviable collaboration with one of the consistently pitch-perfect directors in the Bay Area. Even so "The Soldier's Tale," at the Aurora Theatre, doesn't quite feel like a fully-realized theatrical production, but rather an highly-ambitious workshop. The relatively straightforward storyline, narrated by L. Peter Callender—a soldier strikes an ill-fated Faustian bargain with the smooth-talking Devil, a gleefully wicked Joan Mankin—becomes bogged down in its staging, principally between the soldier, a four-foot tall puppet, and his mostly-puppeteer Muriel Maffre, a six-foot tall dancer. Not only does it become quickly apparent that Maffre's puppeting skills, while earnest, don't impart the vital spark of life into her shuffling charge, but she then abandons him to the stage crew halfway through the show in order to portray the ailing daughter of the king. Her short but sweet, balletic interpretation of the role is definitely the evening's highlight, and while it is commendable for her to also choose to serve in the role of puppeteer, it doesn't quite transport the imagination. However, the Stravinsky score, inventively performed by a quartet of Earplay ensemble players, directed by Mary Chun, does. (Gluckstern) The Wild Bride Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Opens Wed/7, 8pm. Runs Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs and Sat, 2pm; no matinees Thurs/8 or Dec 15); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm; no matinee Jan 1). Through Jan 1. Britain's Kneehigh Theatre Company returns to Berkeley Rep with the American premiere of Emma Rice's grown-up fairy tale.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun 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.
"Cut the Crap! With Semi-Motivational Guru, Clam Lynch" Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. Dec 16, Jan 6, Jan 13, 10:30pm. $15. Get motivated with self-help-guru-satirizing comedian Clam Lynch.
"Dance-Along Nutcracker: Clara's Magical Mystery Tour" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-ARTS, www.dancealongnutcracker.org. Sat, 7pm; Sun, 11am and 3pm. $16-50. The annual tradition returns, as the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band presents a tribute to the Summer of Love.
"The Dog Show" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Thurs-Sun, 8pm. $20. New performance work by Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewit/Strong Behavior.
Kunst-Stoff Kunst-Stoff Arts, One Grove, SF; www.kunst-stoff.org. Thurs-Sat, 8:30pm. $15. The contemporary dance company performs its home season, divided into three programs featuring guests and multiple premieres.
Mark Foehringer Dance Project | SF Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat-Sun, 11am, 2pm, 4pm; Dec 20-23, 11am and 2pm. Through Dec 23. $20-35. The contemporary ballet company performs Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets.
"The Nutcracker" Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.cityboxoffice.com. Sat-Sun, 2pm (also Sat, 7). $20-35. City Ballet School, featuring performers ages 6-19, presents the holiday classic.
ODC/Dance Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.odcdance.org. Thurs-Fri, 11am; Sat, 1 and 4pm; Sun, 2pm. $15-45. The company presents the 25th
anniversary of KT Nelson's The Velveteen Rabbit.
"Previously Secret Information" Stage Werx, 445 Valencia, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sun, 7pm, $15. Joel Selvin, Will and Deb Durst, Sammy Obeid, and Joe Klocek tell true tales.
"The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie: The Kidz Version" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat, 2 and 6pm; Sun, 1 and 5pm. $15-17. The traditional ballet performed with a twist: Taiko drumming, hip-hop, trapeze artists, and more. Presented by Dance Brigade.
"Why Is the Fat One Always Angry" Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.kellidunham.com. Sat, 10pm, $10-20. The genderqueer Brooklynite performs her solo comedy show.