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.
Absolutely San Francisco Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; (415) 992-8168, www.thealcovetheater.com. $32-50. Thurs, 8pm. Through Dec 29. Not Quite Opera Productions presents Anne Nygren Doherty's musical about San Francisco, with five characters all portrayed by Mary Gibboney.
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes Victoria Theatre 2961 16th St, SF; www.trannyshack.com. $30. Thurs/22-Fri/23, 8pm. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, 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)
*On the Air Pier 29 on the Embarcadero (at Battery), SF; (415) 438-2668, love.zinzanni.org. $117 and up (includes dinner). Wed/21, Fri/23, Tues/27, Dec 28-30, 6:15pm (also Dec 28, 11:30am); Sat/24, 11:30am; Dec 31, 8:30pm. 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 Wed/21-Thurs/22, 2pm); Fri-Sat, 9pm (also Sat, 3pm; no show Sat/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. Wed/21, 8pm. Un-Scripted Theater Company presents an improvised musical inspired by Charles Dickens.
Xanadu New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no show Sat/24); Sun, 2pm (no show Sun/25 or Jan 1). Through Jan 15. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the retro roller-skating musical.
*God's Plot Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $18-27. Wed-Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (no shows Wed/21-Sun/25). 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. Wed/21, 2 and 7:30pm; Thurs/22-Fri/23, 8pm; Sat/24, 1 and 6pm; Dec 27-28, 7:30pm; Dec 29-30, 8pm (also Dec 30, 2pm); Dec 31, 2pm. TheatreWorks performs the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel.
*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); Wed and Sun, 7pm (no show Sun/25). 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 Sun/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. Jan 6 and Jan 13, 8pm. $15. Get motivated with self-help-guru-satirizing comedian Clam Lynch.
"Dieter und Shiela at the San Francisco International Youth Hostel" Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.combinedartform.com. Wed-Fri, 9:30pm, $20. Will Franken presents his latest solo, multi-character comedy.
"Forking II: A Merry FORKING Christmas" StageWerx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.pianofight.com.Wed/21-Fri/23 and Dec 25-30, 8pm. $25-35. Well holy forking shit, it's been three years already since Daniel Heath's A Merry Forking Christmas debuted at PianoFight's old Off-Market Theater digs, and in that time a few new faces have been added to the cast, and a few loose ends tied up in a bow, rendering the overall package a ho-ho-holiday treat worth indulging in. Hate the holidays? Not nearly as much as Goth girl morgue assistant Charlotte (Leah Shesky); her buddy Monique (Emma Shelton), a frustrated culinary genius selling pot cookies to stressed-out shoppers; Adam (Jed Goldstein), a disaffected Jew hired on as a Mall Santa from a temp agency; or Charles (Alex Boyd), an effete metrosexual dangerously enervated by his fiancée's perfectionist vigor (Nicole Hammersla). Hilariously guided by Ray Hobbs and Gabrielle Patacsil, who play a variety of bit roles (Headbanger vs. Bible Banger, embattled parents fighting over the last coveted "Meat Panda," feral children), the audience periodically gets to vote over the next permutation of plot, the "forks" alluded to in the title. According to artistic director Rob Ready (also featured in the cast as "Old Ben"), there are 362,880 possible combinations, and yes, the actors have memorized them all. Question is, will you? (Gluckstern)
"Kung Pao Kosher Comedy" New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific, SF; (415) 522-3737, www.koshercomedy.com. Fri-Sat, 6 and 9:30pm; Sun, 5 and 8:30pm. $42-62. Now in its 19th year, this night of "Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant (where else?)" features headliners Elaine Boosler, Avi Liberman, Jeff Applebaum, and Lisa Geduldig.
Mark Foehringer Dance Project | SF Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Wed-Fri, 11am and 2pm. $20-35. The contemporary ballet company performs Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets.
"Santaland Diaries" Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.combinedartform.com. Thurs/22-Sat/24 and Dec 26-30, 8pm (also Fri/23-Sat/24, 3pm). $20-50. Combined Artform presents David Sedaris' holiday comedy.
Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.smuinballet.org. Wed-Fri, 8pm (also Wed, 2pm); Sat, 2pm. $65. The company performs its acclaimed tribute to the holidays, The Christmas Ballet.
"Tenderloin Christmas Hustler: Occupy the 'Loin!" Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, Sixth Flr, SF; www.tenderloinxmashustler.com. Wed-Fri, 8pm. $20-25. Mash-up Christmas parody, complete with sock puppet Jesus at intermission.
"Welcome to Boswick's House" SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; www.boswick.net. Thurs-Fri and Mon-Tues, 11am. $19. Boswick the Clown performs a goofy holiday show aimed at kids ages 4-8 years old.
"Yes Sweet Can" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; (415) 225-7281, www.sweetcanproductions.com. Dec 27-29, 2:30 and 4:30pm; Dec 30, 4 and 8pm; Dec 31-Jan 1, 2pm. $15-60. Sweet Can Productions presents an hourlong extravaganza of circus arts for the holidays.