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. Thurs/15, Sat/15, Dec 22, and 29, 8pm; Sun/11, Sun/18, 4pm. 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/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 3pm. 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/15-Sat/17, 8pm. Stage adaptation of Stanley Kubrick's classic cold war comedy.
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/17, 8:30pm; Sun/18, 7pm. 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/15-Sat/17, 8pm. No Nude Men Productions presents three one-acts by Alison Luterman, Claire Rice, and Hilde Susan Jaegtnes.
The Last Five Years Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-35. Thurs/15-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 2pm. 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/15-Sat/17, 8pm. 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/15-Fri/16, 8pm; Sat/17, 8:30pm. 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/14-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 2pm. 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/14, 7pm; Thurs/15-Fri/16, 8pm; Sat/17, 6pm; Sun/18, 3pm. 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. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm (also Thurs/15-Sat/17, 4pm); Sun/18, 1 and 5pm. 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/16-Sat/17, 7pm; Sun/18, 3pm. 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/15-Sat/17, 8pm. 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. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Jan 15. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the retro roller-skating musical.
The Chalk Boy La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $12-20. Thurs/15-Sat/17, 8pm. Impact Theatre performs Joshua Conkel's black comedy.
*The Glass Menagerie Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $34-55. Wed/14, 7:30pm; Thurs/15-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm); Sun/18, 2 and 7pm. Marin Theatre Company marks the Tennessee Williams centennial year with a worthy production of the play that first made him a success on Broadway in 1945. Its pronounced modernism, poetic spirit, and latent sexual content contribute to a sense that it was ahead of its time, despite the embrace of contemporary audiences, and it still roils with the yearning and anguish of boxed-in lives — as well as the echo of another Depression's larger discontents. MTC artistic director Jasson Minadakis places his sure cast on an appropriately abstract set, evoking the labyrinth of a poor St. Louis apartment building and enlivened by a living portrait of the long-gone, footloose family patriarch (soulful trumpeter Andrew Wilke, who underscores each shade of the play's complex moods). As son and narrator Tom, immersed in wistful memories, actor Nicholas Pelczar is a wholly sympathetic pressure cooker of competing desires, frustrated potential, and precocious compassion — heated by the generous flames of an indomitable and domineering Southern mother (a terrific Sherman Fracher) and his damaged sister, Laura (a quietly intelligent and tremulous Anna Bullard). The action culminates with the arrival of the "gentleman caller" for Laura, the unwitting Jim O'Connor (a pitch-perfect Craig Marker), a workmate of Tom's now somewhat deflated from former high school glory but a firm believer in Dale Carnegie-style self-improvement. This well-meaning all-American ass gives Laura what amounts to a single fleeting brush with happiness — a brush that coincides with his jostling of her titular table of fragile figurines and the neutering of her precious unicorn. It's a tribute to the enduring power of the playwright — and a capable, engrossing production — that the overt metaphor is no impediment here, but an integral piece of a solid drama that reflects its poetic nature back like an achingly delicate, coruscating piece of glass. (Avila)
*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 21, also runs Wed, 7pm). Through Jan 15. Playwright-director Mark Jackson excavates a bit of deep history for Occupy USA, an episode in the annals of colonial American theater and jurisprudence that played, and plays, like a rehearsal for a revolution — this time with music. Capping Shotgun Players' 20th anniversary season of new work, God's Plot comically animates and literally underscores (through song, and irresistible banjo and bass accompaniment courtesy of Josh Pollock and Travis Kindred) the story surrounding "Ye Bare and Ye Cubb," a play performed in 1665 Virginia but now lost. The legal battle that engulfed this satire of the English crown and its economic and political domination of the colonies was an early instance of the close but little acknowledged relationship between art and politics in proto-American society, with much too of religious conflict in the mix (personified here by a powerfully smoldering John Mercer as closet-Quaker Edward Martin). The playwright, a brash self-inventor named William Darby (a sure, charismatic Carl Holvick-Thomas), colludes with a disgruntled merchant (Anthony Nemirovsky) and a former indentured servant climbing the social ladder as a new tenant hand (Will Hand). Darby, meanwhile, is secretly wooing — and even more, being wooed by — Tryal Pore (an ebullient, magnetic Juliana Lustenader), a young woman even braver and more outspoken than he. As an expression of her novel and unbridled spirit, Tryal alone breaks into song to express her feelings or observations. Her temperament is meanwhile a source of worry to her father (a comically deft Kevin Clarke) and mother (Fontana Butterfield), but also attracts an unwitting suitor (a compellingly serious Joe Salazar). The play's overarching narrative of nationalist ferment, which reaches an overtly stirring pitch, thus comes mirrored by the tension in two dramatic triangles whose common point is the precocious, golden-throated Tryal Pore. More of the private drama might have served the overall balance of the play, but a good part of the achievement of director Jackson and his generally muscular cast is making a complex play of enduring ideas and conflicts look so effortless and fun. (Avila)
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 adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel.
The Soldier's Tale Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $10-55. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 2 and 7pm. 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. Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Thurs/15); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm; no matinee Jan 1). Through Jan 1. In the first act of Kneehigh Theatre's The Wild Bride, the destinies of an innocent girl (Audrey Brisson), her moonshine-making father (Stuart Goodwin), and a predatory devil in a cheap suit (Stuart McLoughlin) become inextricably entwined by an ill-fated bargain. Steeped in European fairytale logic and American folk and blues music, Bride is inventively staged at the base of a giant tree, combining mime, puppetry, dance, live music, Cirque du Soleil-style vocals, acrobatics, and taut verse into a swooping, expressionistic fable. Accidentally promised to the devil by her doting but drink-dulled dad, "The Girl" suffers first the creepy indignity of being perved on by her preternatural suitor, and secondly the horror of having her hands chopped off by her own father, actions which drive her to flee into the woods, morphing into a character known only as "The Wild" (played by Patrycja Kujawska). After a stint as an unlikely, Edward Scissorhands-esque queen, The Wild too is driven from comfort and morphs a second time into a third character "The Woman" (Éva Magyar), an experience-toughened mother bear who kicks the devil's ass (literally), and triumphs over adversity, without even uttering a single word. At turns dark, dexterous, fanciful, and fatal, Bride rises above the usual holiday fare with a timeless enchantment. (Gluckstern)
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, 10:30pm; Jan 6, Jan 13, 8pm. $15. Get motivated with self-help-guru-satirizing comedian Clam Lynch.
"Ha Ha Ho Ho Holiday Show" Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.ticketmaster.com. Sat, 8pm. $40. Comedian Paula Poundstone performs.
"The Jewish Nutcracker, A Maccabee Celebration" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odcdance.org. Thurs-Sat, 2 and 6pm; Sun, 2pm. $15-25. World Dance Fusion presents its second annual production of the classic ballet, re-imagined with a Hanukkah twist.
"KMLZ Holidaze" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat, 7 and 10pm. $15-25. Sketch comedy troupe Killing My Lobster takes on the season.
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.
"Oy Vey in a Manger" Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF; (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com. Sat, 8pm. $28-39. "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet," the Kinsey Sicks, perform a holiday musical.
"San Francisco One-Minute Play Festival" Thick House Theater, 1695 18th St, SF; www.playwrightsfoundation.org. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. $20. Playwrights Foundation hosts this second annual fest of very, very short plays by 32 Bay Area authors.
Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.smuinballet.org. Wed/14-Sat/17 and Dec 20-23, 8pm (also Sat/17 and Dec 21, 2pm); Sun/18, 2 and 7pm; Dec 24, 2pm. $65. The company performs its acclaimed tribute to the holidays, The Christmas Ballet.
"Yes Sweet Can" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; (415) 225-7281, www.sweetcanproductions.com. Fri/16-Sat/17 and Dec 30, 8pm (also Dec 30, 4pm); Sun/18, 6pm; Dec 27-29, 2:30 and 4:30pm; Dec 31-Jan 1, 2pm. $15-60. Sweet Can Productions presents an hourlong extravaganza of circus arts for the holidays.