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.
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Opens Fri/17, 8pm. Runs Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 18. Dan Hoyle revives his hit solo show about small-town America.
Scorched American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-85. Previews Thurs/16-Sat/18 and Tues/21, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2pm). Opens Feb 22, 7pm. Runs Tues-Sat, 8pm (Feb 28, show at 7pm); Wed, Sat-Sun, 2pm (no matinee Feb 22). Through March 11. Oscar nominee David Strathairn stars in ACT's performance of Wajdi Mouawad's haunting drama.
Three's Company Live! Finn's Funhouse, 814 Grove, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Opens Fri/17, 7 and 9pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 7 and 9pm. Through March 3. Cat Fights and Shoulder Pads Productions (best production company name ever?) brings the classic sitcom to the stage.
Tontlawald Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; (415) 525-1205, www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Previews Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 5pm. Opens Feb 23, 7:30pm. Runs Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through March 11. Cutting Ball Theater presents this world premiere ensemble piece, using text by resident playwright Eugenie Chan, a capella harmonies, and movement to re-tell an ancient Estonian tale.
Mesmeric Revelation Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381, www.centralworks.org. Previews Thurs/16-Fri/17, 8pm. Opens Sat/18, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 18. Central Works opens its season of world premieres with Aaron Henne's Edgar Allen Poe-inspired drama.
*Blue/Orange Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post, SF; (415) 474-8800, www.lhtsf.org. $43-53. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm). Through March 18. Lorraine Hansberry Theater offers an uneven but worthwhile production of British playwright Joe Penhall's sardonic comedy of ideas and institutional racism, an intriguingly frustrating three-hander about a young doctor (a bright Dan Clegg) at a psychiatric teaching hospital who begins a battle royal with his suave and pompous supervising physician (a comically nimble Julian Lopez-Morillas) over the release of a questionably-sane black patient. Originally brought in by police for creating a disturbance, Christopher (the excellent Carl Lumbly) still exhibits signs of psychosis and his ability to care for himself seems doubtful to the young doctor treating him. The older physician appeals to the patient's general competence, hospital procedures, the shortage of beds, and the exigencies of career advancement in countering the younger doctor's insistence on keeping the patient beyond the mandatory 28-day period required by law. For his part, Christopher, nervous and rather manic, is at first desperately eager to be released back to his poor London neighborhood. Competing interviews with the two doctors complicate his perspective and ours repeatedly, however, as a heated debate about medicine, institutionalization, cultural antecedents to mental "illness," career arcs, and a "cure for black psychosis," leave everyone's sanity in doubt. Although our attention can be distracted by a too-pervading sound design and less than perfect British accents, Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe directs a strong and engaging cast in a politically resonant not to say increasingly maddening play. (Avila)
Cabaret Young Performers Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldc C, Room 300, Marina at Laguna, SF; (415) 381-1638, cabaretsf.wordpress.com. $25-45. Thurs/16-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 7pm. Shakespeare at Stinson and Independent Cabaret Productions perform the Kander and Ebb classic in an intimate setting.
52 Man Pick Up Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; (415) 647-2822, www.brava.org. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, Wed/15, and Feb 27, 8pm. Through March 3. Desiree Butch performs her solo show about a deck of cards' worth of sexual encounters.
Geezer Marsh San Francisco, MainStage, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $25-100. Thurs and Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 18. Geoff Hoyle's hit solo show returns.
Glengarry Glen Ross Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.brownpapertickets.com. $26-40. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 24. David Mamet's cutthroat comedy, courtesy of the Actors Theatre of San Francisco.
Higher Theater at Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Howard, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-65. Wed/15-Sat/18, 8pm (also Wed/15 and Sat/18, 2pm); Sun/19, 2pm. American Conservatory Theater premieres artistic director Carey Perloff's ambitious but choppy play about renowned architect Michael Friedman (an affably egotistical Andrew Polk) and brilliant but still up-and-coming Elena Constantine (a restlessly clever yet vulnerable René Augesen), lovers who find themselves competing for the same commission to design a memorial at the site of a bus bombing on the Sea of Galilee. The spunky widow (Concetta Tomei) of a wealthy American Jewish businessman is funding the memorial, and supervising the competition with the help of a handsome young Israeli, Jacob (Alexander Crowther), grieving for his father. The jet-set lovers only gradually realize they're competitors (Michael very late in the game, which seems a bit too clueless). Meanwhile, Michael attends to the strained relationship with his grown-up but too-long-neglected gay son (Ben Kahre), a convert to "born-again Judaism" in contrast to his father's attenuated affiliations; and shiksa Elena finds inspiration for a radical design in the grief-stricken (but soon smitten) Jacob, kneading the burnt sand at the shore of a lake "filled with Jewish tears." In a play dealing with land and memory, reconciliation, chauvinism, and short-sightedness, the absence of any mention of Palestinian "tears" in the same water (or Palestinians at all) seems a conspicuous absence. The dialogue, meanwhile, while often witty, can be labored in its mingling of airy architectural notions with earthier matters. Mark Rucker's direction gives scope to an admirably tailored performance from Augesen (the small stage offers a rewarding chance to watch the ACT veteran work up close) but not enough attention goes to the supposed sexual tension between Elena and Michael, which, despite sporadically randy dialogue and some awkward blocking on a mattress, is effectively nil. (Avila)
Jesus in India Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.magictheatre.org. $20-55. Wed/15-Sat/18, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2:30pm); Sun/19, 2:30pm. Lloyd Suh's American Hwangap is still one of Magic's strongest premieres in recent years; his latest makes a disappointing contrast. There's again an absent father (or two) and a sense of dislocation, but Suh's "Jesus in India" does little or nothing with them. Director Daniella Topol assembles a bright cast headed by musically adept charmer Damon Daunno — on Michael Locher's colorful, all-encompassing street mosaic set (comprised of floor-to-wall stickers, spray-paint, and mandalas around a central thicket of abandoned bicycle wheels) — but it all serves an insipid chronicle of the deity's wayward teen years. (Avila)
*Little Brother Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough, SF; www.custommade.org. $25-32. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Feb 25. Custom Made Theatre Co. performs Josh Costello's adaptation of Cory Doctorow's San Francisco-set thriller.
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)
Olivia's Kitchen Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.generationtheatre.com. $20-40. Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 3pm. GenerationTheatre offers this "remix" of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
Private Parts SF Playhouse, Stage 2, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $20. Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Feb 25. Graham Gremore performs his autobiographical solo comedy.
*True West Boxcar Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; (415) 967-2227, www.boxcartheatre.org. $25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through April 7. The first installment of Boxcar Theatre's four-play Sam Shepard repertory project, True West ushers in the ambitious run with a bang. This tale of two brothers who gradually assume the role of the other is one of Shepard's most enduring plays, rich with humorous interludes, veering sharply into dangerous terrain at the drop of a toaster. In time-honored, True West tradition, the lead roles of Austin, the unassuming younger brother, and Lee, his violent older sibling, are being alternated between Nick A. Olivero and Brian Trybom, and in a new twist, the role of the mother is being played by two different actresses as well (Adrienne Krug and Katya Rivera). The evening I saw it, Olivero was playing Austin, a writer banging away at his first screenplay, and Trybom was Lee, a troubled, alcoholic drifter who usurps his brother's Hollywood shot, and trashes their mother's home while trying to honor his as yet unwritten "contract". The chemistry between the two actors was a perfect blend of menace and fraternity, and the extreme wreckage they make of both the set (designed by both actors), and their ever-tenuous relationship, was truly inspired. (Gluckstern)
*Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical Thrillpeddlers' Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; (415) 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com. $30-35. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 3. Hot on the high heels of a 22-month run of Pearls Over Shanghai, the Thrillpeddlers are continuing their Theatre of the Ridiculous revival with a tits-up, balls-out production of the Cockettes' last musical, Vice Palace. Loosely based on the terrifyingly grim "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, part of the thrill of Palace is the way that it weds the campy drag-glamour of Pearls Over Shanghai with the Thrillpeddlers' signature Grand Guignol aesthetic. From an opening number set on a plague-stricken street ("There's Blood on Your Face") to a charming little cabaret about Caligula, staged with live assassinations, an undercurrent of darkness runs like blood beneath the shameless slapstick of the thinly-plotted revue. As plague-obsessed hostess Divina (Leigh Crow) and her right-hand "gal" Bella (Eric Tyson Wertz) try to distract a group of stir-crazy socialites from the dangers outside the villa walls, the entertainments range from silly to salacious: a suggestively-sung song about camel's humps, the wistful ballad "Just a Lonely Little Turd," a truly unexpected Rite of Spring-style dance number entitled "Flesh Ballet." Sumptuously costumed by Kara Emry, cleverly lit by Nicholas Torre, accompanied by songwriter/lyricist (and original Cockette) Scrumbly Koldewyn, and anchored by a core of Thrillpeddler regulars, Palace is one nice vice. (Gluckstern)
*Vigilance Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, SF; (415) 335-6087, secondwind.8m.com. $20-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Feb 25. Ian Walker (The Tender King) directs a sharp revival of his own lucid, involving 2000 domestic drama about three households brought to the brink by the arrival of a menacing working-class loner. Seamlessly staged in a single pair of rooms (designed by Fred Sharkey) representing all three suburban middle-class homes — as well as downstage on the street where dream-home lottery winner Duncan (an imposing Steven Westdahl) throws his beer cans and leers at the wives and children — Vigilance begins with three friends meeting under the pretext of a poker game. Host Virgil (played with gruff charm by a commanding Mike Newman) is a 30-something husband, father, and guy's guy whose Montana-grown libertarian machismo compensates for the agro of a stormy marriage and rocky finances. He talks the suggestible, nebbishy Bert (a slyly humorous Ben Ortega) and the equally nerdy but independent-minded Dick (a nicely layered Stephen Muterspaugh) into forming a "committee" to deal with the troublesome Duncan. Walker's well-honed dialogue brings out the false notes in the supposed pre-Duncan harmony right away, and the play strikes best at the buried politics of marriage and friendship. (Avila)
Waiting for Godot Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa, SF; (415) 336-3522, www.tidestheatre.org. $20-38. Thurs/16-Sat/18, 8pm. The fuchsia papier-mâché tree and swirling grey-on-white floor pattern (courtesy of scenic designer Richard Colman) lend a psychedelic accent to the famously barren landscape inhabited by Vladimir (Keith Burkland) and Estragon (Jack Halton) in this production of the Samuel Beckett play by newcomers Tides Theatre. The best moments here broadcast the brooding beauty of the avant-garde classic, with its purposely vague but readily familiar world of viciousness, servility, trauma, want, fear, grudging compassion, and the daring, fragile humor that can look it all squarely in the eye. (Avila)
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through March 24. Brian Copeland returns with a new solo show about his struggles with depression.
Arms and the Man Lesher Center for the Arts, Margaret Lesher Theater, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-7469, www.centerrep.org. $38-43. Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2:30pm. Through Feb 25. Center REPertory Company presents George Bernard Shaw's classic romantic comedy.
*Body Awareness Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $30-48. Tues, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 11. In Annie Baker's new comedy, receiving a top-notch Bay Area premiere at Aurora Theatre, peppy psychology prof Phyllis (Amy Resnick) hosts "Body Awareness Week" at her small Vermont college, while back home partner Joyce (Jeri Lynn Cohen) talks to her 21-year-old son Jared (Patrick Russell) about the porn pay-per-view bill he's racked up. Phyllis contends that Joyce's introverted, somewhat explosive virgin son (who in addition to bouts of violent anger soothes himself compulsively with an electric security toothbrush) has Asperger's Syndrome — a diagnosis that Jared, a budding not too say obsessive lexicographer, hotly contests. That same week, the couple hosts a guest artist, Frank (Howard Swain), a breezy man's man whose career stands squarely on a series of photographs of nude women and girls. The young man seeks sexual advice from the older one, much to Phyllis's disgust and Joyce's relief, while also tempting Joyce with the notion of posing for a nude portrait and "reclaiming her body image," in a well-used phrase. An already delicate balance thus goes right off kilter as, between the poles of Phyllis and Frank, Joyce and Jared chase competing notions and definitions of themselves and the world. In the volatile tension between perspectives, power trips, and extreme personalities, playwright Baker initially pushes a comic form toward an unsettling edge, only to retreat in the end for safer ground and a family-friendly resolution. While that feels like a lost opportunity, Body Awareness is still a stimulating and solidly entertaining evening, brought to life by a warm and dexterous ensemble under fine, lively direction by Joy Carlin. (Avila)
Counter Attack! Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 444-4755, ext. 114, www.stagebridge.org. $18-25. Wed-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through March 4. Stagebridge presents the world premiere of Joan Holden's waitress-centric play.
A Doctor in Spire of Himself Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Opens Wed/15, 8pm. Runs Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs and Sat, 2pm; no matinees Thurs/16, Feb 25, March 1, 8, and 15; no show March 23); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through March 25. Berkeley Rep performs a contemporary update of the Molière comedy.
Ghost Light Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Wed/15 and Sun/19, 7pm (also Sun/19, 2pm); Thurs/16-Sat/18, 8pm (also Thurs/16 and Sat/18, 2pm). 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.
*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. Extended through March 25. 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)
A Steady Rain Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, SF; (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatre.org. $34-55. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Thurs/16, 1pm; Feb 25, 2pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Feb 26. Marin Theatre Company performs Keith Huff's neo-noir drama.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Extended run: Sun/19, Feb 26, March 11, and 18, 11am. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
Tanya Bello's Project. B. and Alyce Finwall Dance Theater Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.975howard.com. Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm. $15. New work by choregraphers Bello and Finwall.
"Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now 2012" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.bcfhereandnow.com. Fri/17-Sat/18 and Feb 24-25, 8pm; Sun/19, 4pm; Feb 26, 7pm. $10-25. Celebrate African and African American dance and culture at this multi-part festival, with works by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Kendra Kimbrough Barnes, and more.
Company C Contemporary Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787. Fri/17, 8pm; Sat/18, 6:30pm (gala benefit); and Sun/19, 3pm. $23-175. The company opens its 10th anniversary season.
"Elect to Laugh" Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. Tues, 8pm. Ongoing through Nov 6. $15-50. Will Durst and friends perform in this weekly political humor show that focuses on the upcoming presidential election.
"The Eric Show" Milk Bar, 1840 Haight, SF; www.milksf.com. Tues, 8pm (ongoing). $5. Local comedians perform with host Eric Barry.
"Forever Tango" Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter, SF; www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com. Wed/15-Sat/18, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2pm); Sun/19, 2pm. $45-75. Dancing With the Stars' Anna Trebunskaya stars in this tango extravaganza.
"Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dionysus: A Greek Comedy Rock Epic" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Fri/17-Sun/19, 8pm. $20. Trixxie Carr and Ben Randle's San Francisco-set multimedia performance returns.
Holly Johnston/Ledges and Bones ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org. Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 7pm. $17-37. The contemporary dance company world-premieres Want.
"The Past is a Grotesque Animal" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. Thurs/16-Sat/18, 8pm. $5-25. Argentine writer-director Mariano Pensotti presents the Bay Area premiere of his acclaimed drama.