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.
"Celebration of Women's History Month" Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.3girlstheatre.org. $30. Opens Thurs/8, 7:30pm. Dates and showtimes vary. Through April 1. 3Girls Theatre Company launches its inaugural season with a celebration of new works (in both full-production and staged-reading form) by female Bay Area playwrights.
It's All the Rage Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Thurs/8, 8pm. Runs Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm, Sun, 7pm. Through April 15. Longtime comedian and radio host Marilyn Pittman's solo play wrestles with the legacy of her parents' violent deaths in a 1997 murder-suicide initiated by her father. It's disturbing material that Pittman, a stout middle-aged woman with a gregarious and bounding personality, approaches indirectly via a good deal of humor — including recounting the first time she did her growing-up-lesbian bit before her mother in a DC comedy club. But the pain and confusion trailing her for 13 years is never far behind, whether in accounts of her own battle with anger (and the broken relationships it has left in its wake) or in ominous memories of her too complaisant mother or her charming but domineering father, whose controlling behavior extended to casually announcing murderous dreams while policing the boundaries of his marriage against family interference. A fine mimic, Pittman deploys a Southern lilt in playing each parent, on a stage decorated with a hint of their Southwestern furnishings and a framed set of parental photographs. In not exactly knowing where to lay blame for, or find meaning in, such a horrifying act, the play itself mimics in subtler form the emotional tumult left behind. There's a too brief but eerie scene in which her veteran father makes reference to a murder among fellow soldiers en route to war, but while PTSD is mentioned (including as an unwanted patrimony), the 60-minute narrative crafted by Pittman and director David Ford wisely eschews any pat explanation. If transitions are occasionally awkward and the pace a bit loose, the play leaves one with an uncomfortable sense of the darker aspects of love, mingled with vague concentric histories of trauma and dislocation in a weird, sad tale of destruction and staying power. Note: review from the show's 2009 run at the Marsh. (Avila)
Julius Caesar Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.african-americanshakes.org. $10-30. Opens Sat/10, 8pm. Runs Sat, 8pm; Sun, 4pm. Through April 1. African-American Shakespeare Company performs a version of the Bard's classic set during the ongoing civil wars of West Africa.
Now Circa Then Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-69. Previews Wed/7-Fri/9, 8pm. Opens Sat/10, 8pm. Runs Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through April 1. TheatreWorks performs Carly Mensch's comedy about a romance that blooms between two historical re-enactors.
*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)
*Fool For Love Boxcar Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $25. Showtimes vary. Through April 14. Another installment of Boxcar Theatre's epic Sam Shepard repertory project, Fool for Love inaugurates their newest performance space within their Hyde Street Studios location. A depressingly realistic reproduction of a claustrophobic motel room, the tiny jewel-box theatre provides no refuge for the actors, and certainly not for the audience, each trapped beneath the pitiless gaze of the other. And if that too-close-for-comfort intimacy doesn't get to you, the intentionally difficult subject matter — a "typical" Shepardian foray into alcohol-fueled ranting, violence, incest, and casual cruelty — probably will. Shepard's strength in monologue shows itself off to meaty effect from May's (Lauren Doucette) melancholy description of her mother's love affair with the Old Man (Jeff Garrett) to Eddie's (Brian Trybom) candid admittance to May's timid suitor Martin (Geoffrey Nolan) that he and May are not cousins at all but half-siblings who have "fooled around" with each other. In addition to the reliably strong performances from each of the actors, Fool features a notably clever bit of staging involving the Old Man who appears not as a specter wandering the periphery of the stage, but as a recurring figure on the black-and-white television, interrupting the flow of cheesy Westerns with his garrulous trailer park wisdom and an omnipresent Styrofoam cup filled, one suspects, with something stronger than just coffee. (Gluckstern)
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.
Maurice New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 25. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents a play about two young men who fall in love in pre-World War I England, adapted from E.M. Forster's novel.
Merchants Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 24. No Nude Men Productions performs Susan Sobeloff's tale of two sisters trying to balance financial stability and career satisfaction.
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $25-50. 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. Wed/7-Sat/10, 8pm; Wed/7, Sat/10-Sun/11, 2pm. Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad bites off a little more than he can chew, and ACT thus offers a less than satisfying three-hour feast with its stilted production of Mouawad's 2008 epic about a brother and sister (Babak Tafti and Annie Purcell) sent by their estranged, recently deceased mother's executor (David Strathairn) on a hunt for her past in her unnamed civil war-torn Middle Eastern homeland. At that point, the story of their mother, Nawal (Marjan Neshat), comes center stage — or rather crisscrosses it with that of her children in a mash-up that only undercuts the potential tension or interest in either plot strand. Director Carey Perloff's cast also proves unevenly compelling. Strathairn's Alphonse is a compassionate, slyly wise man who nervously rambles to make up for the extremely laconic and resentful mood of Nawal's children. But he is of peripheral importance, and his malapropisms are laid on a little thicker than his endearing Quebecois accent, as if betraying the limits of his function onstage. The other characters meanwhile feel too thinly sketched to occupy the middle. As the sad and horrifying details of this Sophocles-inspired tale unfold, there is surprisingly little sense of authentic experience, and much more the feeling of over-indulgence it certain dramatic devices. Between the sententious and ponderous dialogue, strained characterization, and unwieldy storyline is a play flailing away at something beyond its ken or capacity. (Avila)
*Three's Company Finn's Funhouse, 814 Grove, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Fri/9-Sat/10, 9pm (also Sat/10, 7pm). Some flashbacks are better than the original high. And more real. This time, you can literally "knock on their door" — a beautiful old Victorian in the Western Addition, whose dining room is made up to look like the Santa Monica apartment shared by Jack, Crissy, and Janet, the happy-go-lucky trio at the center of the iconic late '70s, early '80s sitcom. Giggly, ribald, and pleasingly stupid, to be sure, the evening also delivers first-class showmanship: Mike Finn (as good-natured goof Jack), D'Arcy Drollinger (as a buxom not to say brawny Chrissy), and former Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin (in a spritely turn as Janet) couldn't be more reminiscent or delightfully arch in their respective roles. Meanwhile, incarnating the Ropers with pitch-perfect inflections, timing, kaftans and sweater vests are the superb duo of Matthew Martin (channeling the frustrated deadpan wit of Mrs. Roper) and Sara Moore (excelling as subdued but occasionally very wacky Mr. Roper). A ticket gets you pilot episode "Man About the House" and "Roper's Niece" (a suitably randy Laurie Bushman) — plus commercials. Cat Fight and Shoulder Pads' homey hit, briskly directed by Cindy Goldfield and extended for one more weekend, is must-see reality TV. (Avila)
Tontlawald Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; (415) 525-1205, www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Thurs/8, 7:30pm; Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm (also Sat/10, 2pm); Sun/11, 5pm. Entering the theater space thought the back door, squeezing alongside a giant fishing net motif, which wraps the entire stage in a fabric grid, almost imperceptibly skews one's perspective in advance of the show, just a brief twist that sets the tone for this abbreviated epic of abuse, friendship, and revenge. The heroine, an earthy yet somehow fragile maid (Marilet Martinez), inadvertently manages to rile her evil stepmother (Madeline H. D. Brown) for what seems to be the umpteenth time before fleeing into the mysterious wooded Tontlawald, inhabited by joyously frolicking beasts (or boys) and a preternaturally beautiful princess (Rebecca Frank) who immediately adopts her as a friend. Told through snatches of repetitive text, solemnly-intoned and ecstatically sung, and moments of engagingly acrobatic, hyper-stylized movement, Cutting Ball's Tontlawald meanders through an Estonian fairy tale-hero's quest, as if told from the perspective of the child protagonist — light on detail, heavy on drama. Inspired by TeatrZAR, the resident company of Poland's Grotowski Centre, co-directors Paige Rogers and Annie Paladino and choreographer Laura Arrington worked to emulate certain characteristics of its style, notably the emphasis on song. But while there are some gorgeously transcendent moments of musical direction courtesy of Rogers, and of choreography courtesy of Arrington, the work plays out mostly as a disjointed series of striking tableaux, which intrigue the intellect, but somehow fail to inflame the soul. (Gluckstern)
*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)
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 (comedian, TV and radio personality, and creator-performer of the long-running solo play Not a Genuine Black Man) returns to the Marsh with a new solo, this one based on more recent and messier events in Copeland's life. The play concerns an episode of severe depression in which he considered suicide, going so far as to purchase a handgun — the title coming from the legally mandatory 10-day period between purchasing and picking up the weapon, which leaves time for reflections and circumstances that ultimately prevent Copeland from pulling the trigger. A grim subject, but Copeland (with co-developer and director David Ford) ensures there's plenty of humor as well as frank sentiment along the way. The actor peoples the opening scene in the gun store with a comically if somewhat stereotypically rugged representative of the Second Amendment, for instance, as well as an equally familiar "doood" dude at the service counter. Afterward, we follow Copeland, a just barely coping dad, home to the house recently abandoned by his wife, and through the ordinary routines that become unbearable to the clinically depressed. Copeland also recreates interviews he's made with other survivors of suicidal depression. Telling someone about such things is vital to preventing their worst outcomes, says Copeland, and telling his own story is meant to encourage others. It's a worthy aim but only a fitfully engaging piece, since as drama it remains thin, standing at perhaps too respectful a distance from the convoluted torment and alienation at its center. (Avila)
*Body Awareness Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $30-48. Wed/7-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 2 and 7pm. 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)
Cabaret Larkspur Café Theater (American Legion Hall Post 313), 500 Magnolia, Larkspur; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-45. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (no show April 8). Through April 15. Independent Cabaret Productions and Shakespeare at Stinson move their production of the Kander and Ebb classic from Fort Mason to the North Bay.
A Doctor in Spite of Himself Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-73. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no show March 23); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through March 25. Berkeley Rep performs a contemporary update of the Molière comedy.
*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)
Mesmeric Revelation Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381, www.centralworks.org. 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.
The Pirates of Penzance Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (510) 845-8542, www.juliamorgan.org. $17-35. Fri-Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through April 1. Berkeley Playhouse performs the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, with the setting shifted to a futuristic city.
Titus Andronicus La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 31. Impact Theatre takes on the Bard's bloodiest tragedy.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Extended run: Sun/11 and March 18, 11am. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
"The Abduction from the Seraglio (Yanked from the Harem)" Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, SF; www.pocketopera.org. Sun/11, 2pm. Also March 18, 2pm, Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar, Berk. $15-39. Pocket Opera performs artistic director Donald Pippin's witty translation of Mozart's classic work.
"Arthur in Underland" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Fri-Sun, 8pm. Through March 24. $15-24. Dandelion Dancetheater performs a new work about a young man whose life is changed when he becomes part of a rock group's entourage.
"A Circus Celebration Honoring Peggy Ford" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Tues/13, 7pm. $20-100. Clowns and other circus performers honor the life and legacy of the late Peggy Ford, a 40-year veteran of the Bay Area and national circus communities.
"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.
"Finding the Michaels" Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm. Footloose presents Cassie Angley's solo play about her experiences in post-9/11 New York City.
"Funsch Solos: One on One" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. Thurs/8-Sat/10, 8:30pm; Sun/11, 7:30pm. $15-20. Christy Funsch presents up-close glimpses of her solo dance works, featuring a variety of performers.
"Waters Rising" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; (415) 273-4633, www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 5pm. $15-18. Locals Zell Dance and dance ceres team up with Boston-based Weber Dance for a weekend showcasing new works.
"The Whole Megillah 2: Uncut" Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF. Wed/7, 8pm. Also: Thurs/8-Fri/9, 8pm; Sat/10, 7 and 10pm. Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida, SF; www.jccsf.org. $15-20. The Hub and Killing My Lobster present this Purim-themed sketch comedy show.
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft at Telegraph, UC Berkeley, Berk; (510) 642-9988, www.calperformances.org. Program A: Tues/13 and March 16, 8pm; Program B: March 14, 8pm, March 17, 2pm, and March 18, 3pm; Program C: March 15 and 17, 8pm. $30-80. The veteran company makes its annual visit with three programs incorporating eight separate works, including the Bay Area premiere of Rennie Harris' Home (2011).
"The Fortune Project Ch. 2: Atomic Intuition" Envision Academy, 1515 Webster, SF; www.raggedwing.org. Fri/9-Sat/10, 8pm; Sun/11, 5pm. $15-30. Ragged Wing Ensemble performs the second installment in its multidisciplinary, interactive performance series.