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.
Food Stories: Pleasure is Pleasure Z Space, Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-55. Previews Wed/11-Thurs/12, 7pm; Fri/13, 8pm. Opens Sat/14, 8pm. Runs Wed-Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 5. Word for Word presents performances of short stories by T.C. Boyle and Alice McDermott.
Humor Abuse American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-85. Previews Thurs/12-Sat/14 and Tues/17, 8pm (also Sat/14, 2pm); Sun/15, 7pm. Opens Jan 18, 2pm. Runs Tues-Sat, 8pm (Jan 24, show at 7pm; also Wed and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Jan 18); Sun, 2pm (no matinee Sun/15). Through Feb 5. ACT presents Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt's tale (based on Pisoni's life; he is also the sole performer) of a child growing up amid San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus.
New Fire: To Put Things Right Again Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; (415) 647-2822, www.brava.org. $10-30. Previews Thurs/12, 8pm. Opens Fri/13, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Jan 29. Brava Theater presents a world premiere by Brava founding member Cherríe Moraga.
Ghost Light Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, SF; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Opens Wed/11, 8pm. Runs Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, Jan 19, and Feb 16, 2pm; no matinee Sat/7 or Jan 21; no show Jan 17); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm; no matinee Sun/8). Through Feb 19. Berkeley Rep performs Tony Taccone's world-premiere play about George Moscone's assassination, directed by the late San Francisco mayor's son, Jonathan Moscone.
Future Motive Power Old Mint, 88 Fifth St, SF; www.mugwumpin.org. $15-30. Fri-Sun, 8pm. Through Jan 29. Mugwumpin takes on the life of Nikola Tesla in its latest performance piece.
Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5 and 8:30pm. Extended through Feb 25. 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)
*Period of Adjustment SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-50. Wed/11-Thurs/12, 7pm; Fri/13-Sat/14, 9pm (also Sat/14, 3pm). 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)
The Two-Character Play Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.therhino.org. $10-25. Wed/11-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 3pm. A seldom-performed, experimental Tennessee Williams work written in the later years of his career, The Two-Character Play is a curious piece. Less muscular by far than the earlier works which put him on the map as a playwright to be reckoned with, the play still manages to explore terrain very familiar to the Williams oeuvre including isolation, grief, madness, substance abuse, and a final, unquenchable spark of desperate optimism. Brother and sister duo, Felice (Ryan Tasker) and Clare (Alexandra Creighton), find themselves trapped onstage by their own captive audience, improvising their play-within-a-play, also called The Two-Character Play, without the support of the rest of their company (who have abandoned them, possibly because they haven’t been paid). Tasker plays the role of unsympathetic taskmaster, forcing Creighton’s unapologetically drug-addled and hilariously haughty Clare to play her role, however unwillingly, as she conspires to cut things short, instigating him to violence and an almost existential despair. Although the performance I saw was a preview, the tension building between the two characters culminated in a genuinely provocative moment of death deferred and potentially forbidden lust reawakened, but even the dedication of the performers can’t quite make up for Williams’ murky intentions, and Felice’s observation that it’s “possible the Two-Character Play doesn’t have an ending,” summed the experience up almost too neatly. (Gluckstern)
Xanadu New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed/11-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 2pm. 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/11-Thurs/12, 7pm; Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 5pm. 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 Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s New venue: Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Feb 12. 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)
*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 Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun/15, 2pm; Jan 22, show at 2pm only). Extended through Jan 22. 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. Extended run: Sun/15, Jan 21, Feb 12, 19, 26, March 11, and 18, 11am. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
"Abracadabra! Stories About Magic with Porchlight" Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF; www.thecjm.org. Thurs, 7pm. $15 (includes museum admission). Inspired by the museum's Houdini museum: true tales about magic.
"Cut the Crap! With Semi-Motivational Guru, Clam Lynch" Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. Fri, 8pm. $15. Get motivated with self-help-guru-satirizing comedian Clam Lynch.
"In the Name of Love: The 10th Annual Musical Tribute Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakl; 1-800-745-3000, www.mlktribute.com. Sun, 7pm. $8-18. With gospel legend Mavis Staples, America's Got Talent contestant PopLyfe, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Youth Speaks, and the Oakland Children's Community Choir.
"Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour" Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Wy, Oakl; www.cirquedusoleil.com. Jan 17-18, 8pm. $50-250. A tribute to the King of Pop, Cirque du Soliel-style.