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.
Act One, Scene Two Phoenix Arts Association Theatre, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Previews Thu/12-Sat/14, 8pm. Opens April 19, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 12. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs the beginning of a new, unfinished play by a local author and creates an ending on the spot once the script runs out.
It Is What It Is and The Watchtower Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, SF; www.myadultland.com. $20. Opens Fri/13, 8pm. Runs Sat/14, April 19-21, and 27-28, 8pm; Sun/15 and April 29, 3pm. Through April 29. Short plays by Diane Karagienakos and Christopher Barranti, presented on the same stage with a brief intermission.
Thunder Above, Deeps Below Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-25. Opens Thu/12, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 5. Bindlestiff presents A. Rey Pamatmat's dramatic comedy about three homeless young adults.
John Brown's Truth La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-15. Opens Sun/15, 7:30pm. Runs Sun, 7:30pm. Through April 29. The story of abolitionist John Brown comes to life via William Crossman's script-libretto, plus dance, spoken word, and a variety of improvised music styles.
*The Aliens SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-70. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 5. On the heels of Aurora Theatre's production of Body Awareness, SF Playhouse introduces local audiences to another of contemporary American playwright Annie Baker's acclaimed plays, in a finely tailored West Coast premiere directed by Lila Neugebauer. The Aliens unfolds in the days just around July 4, at slacker pace, in the backyard of a Vermont café (lovingly realized to palpable perfection by scenic designer Bill English), daily haunt of scruffy, post-Beat dropouts and sometime band mates Jasper (a secretly brooding but determined Peter O'Connor) and KJ (a charmingly ingenuous yet mischievous Haynes Thigpen). New employee and high school student Evan (a winningly eager and reticent Brian Miskell) is at first desperate to get the interlopers out of the "staff only" backyard but is just lonely enough to be seduced into friendship and wary idolatry by the older males. What unfolds is a small, sweet and unexpected tale of connection and influence, amid today's alienated dream-sucking American landscape same as it ever was, if you ask Charles Bukowski or Henry Miller, both points of reference to Jasper and KJ, who borrow Bukowski's poem The Aliens for one of their many band names. An appropriate name for the alienated, sure, but part of the charm of these characters is just how easy they are to recognize, or how much we can recognize ourselves in them. Delusions of grandeur reside in every coffee house across this wistful, restless land. It's not just Jasper and KJ who may be going nowhere. A final gesture to the young and awkward but clearly capable Evan suggests, a little ambiguously to be sure, that there's promise out there yet for some. But more than that: the transaction makes clear by then that there are no fuck-ups, really; not among people with generous and open hearts never mind how fucked up the country at large. (Avila)
Any Given Day Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.magictheatre.org. $20-60. Opens Wed/11, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm (also April 21, 2:30pm); Sun, 2:30pm; Tue, 7pm. Through April 22. Magic Theatre performs Linda McLean's Glasgow-set play about modern, urban life.
*The Caretaker Curran Theater, 445 Geary, SF; www.shnsf.com. $25-175. Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through April 22. Harold Pinter's 1960 drama gets its first major revival since the death of the playwright in 2008 in this touring English production featuring Jonathan Pryce in the ambiguous title role. Set in a worn and cluttered attic apartment amid a triangular power play between its seemingly nonchalant tenant, Aston (the excellently vacant, vaguely creepy Alan Cox), an older homeless man he's just rescued named Davies (a shifty, richly detailed Pryce), and the tenant's younger brother and landlord Mick (a tightly coiled yet comically skittish Alex Hassell). The story is minimal, the tensions and pivoting interpersonal dynamics all. The spookier aspects of the play are toned down, meanwhile, though not necessarily to bad effect. While the opening scenes are played with somewhat unexpected levity, director Christopher Morahan ensures a subtle shift midway through into a more threatening and serious tone that is perhaps all the more palpable for being less foreseen as Davies, egged on by the hyper Mick's persuasive vision of remaking the dumpy room into an elegant penthouse, makes an ill-considered play for dominance over his seemingly gentle but inscrutable host. (Avila)
*Fool For Love Boxcar Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $25. Wed/11-Sat/14, 8pm. 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)
*Glengarry Glen Ross Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.brownpapertickets.com. $26-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Extended through April 28. Actors Theatre of San Francisco and director Keith Phillips offer a sharp, spirited production of the 1984 play by David Mamet in which four real estate agents (Mark Bird, Sean Hallinan, John Krause, and Christian Phillips) jockey and scheme for advantage in their Chicago office in a landscape of insecurity and fierce competition symbolized by the selective doling out of the best leads by manager and company man John (Frank Willey). Clients (like the gullible young husband played by Randy Blair), meanwhile, are just witless marks for the machinations of the predatory salesman, no more meaningfully human than the "muppets" targeted by Greg Smith's Goldman Sachs. If the scenic design is a little shabby, the strong cast makes that hardly an impediment to a story that feels especially timely in its sharply etched, not to say angry portrait of the ruthless and corrosive business mentality to which egos, livelihoods, and lives not to mention the culture at large are enthralled. (Avila)
Goodfellas Live Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through April 26. The Dark Room offers a comedic take on Scorsese's gangsters.
*Hot Greeks Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 5. Cheap thrills don't come much cheaper or more thrilling than at a Thrillpeddlers musical extravaganza, and their newly remounted run of Hot Greeks affords all the glitter-dusted eye-candy and labyrinthian plot points we've come to expect from their gleefully exhibitionist ranks. Structured as loosely as possible on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Greeks appropriately enough follows the trials and tribulations of a college sorority tired of "losing" their boyfriends to the big football match every year (Athens U vs. Sparta Tech). Pledging to withhold sex from the men unless they call off the game results in frustration for all, only partially alleviated by the discovery that sexual needs can be satisfied by "playing the other team," as it were. But like other Cockettes' revivals presented by the Thrillpeddlers, the momentum of the show is carried forward not by the rather thinly-sketched narrative, but by the group song-and-dance numbers, extravagant costuming (and lack thereof), ribald wordplay, and overt gender-fuckery. In addition to many TP regulars, including a hot trio of Greek columns topped with "capital" headdresses who serve as the obligatory chorus (Steven Satyricon, Ste Fishell, Bobby Singer), exciting new additions to the Hypnodrome stage include a bewigged Rik Lopes as stalwart sister Lysistrata, angelically-voiced Maggie Tenenbaum as the not-so-angelic Sodoma, and multi-faceted cabaret talent Tom Orr as heartthrob hunk Pendulum Pulaski. (Gluckstern)
It's All the Rage Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu/12, 8pm; Sat/14, 8:30pm, Sun/15, 7pm. 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 complacent 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 San Francisco. (Avila)
*A Lie of the Mind Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $25. Wed/11-Sat/14, 8pm. Sam Shepard's three-act drama is streaked with humor, horror and heartbreak, all of it arising from the most mundane but also extraordinary of things, love and family. That's Shepard territory, of course, as surely as is the rowdy backwater of the American West where much of the play unfolds. But seeing the exceptionally sharp and powerful production currently up at Boxcar Theatre under direction of Susannah Martin in the midst of Boxcar's mostly terrific four-play Shepard fest that includes his better known Pulitzer-winner, Buried Child (1979) suggests 1985's Lie may cut deeper than most. It begins in the immediate aftermath of a vicious episode of domestic abuse, from which the married couple of Beth (Megan Trout) and Jake (Joe Estlack) flies apart and back into the ambivalent arms of their mutually dysfunctional families (played wonderfully by Carolyn Doyle, Marissa Keltie, Tim Redmond, Katja Rivera, Josh Schell, and Don Wood). Trout's brain-damaged Beth is a wrenching figure, not merely for her confusion and vulnerability but more so for the certainty and determination that make their way from her heart through the prison bars of her hampered mind. As Jake, Estlack is doing some of his finest work, convincingly incarnating a veritable beast whose roaring, roiling emotions sound the loneliest and most desolate of souls within. Martin's intelligent staging aided by Steve Decker's beautifully spare wood-plank set, Lucas Krech's moody lighting, and a choice, eerie sound design by Teddy Hulsker adds tangible weight and texture to the play's radiant dialogue and engrossing characters, realized by one of the finest ensemble casts all year. (Avila)
Maple and Vine American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org. $10-95. Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (Sun/15, show at 7pm). Through April 22. ACT performs the West Coast premiere of Jordan Harrison's play about a 21st century couple drawn into a community of people who live as if it's the 1950s.
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri/13, 8pm; Sat/14, 5pm. Dan Hoyle revives his hit solo show about small-town America.
Waiting for Godot New venue: SF Playhouse Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 336-3522, www.tidestheatre.org. $20-32. Thu/12, 7pm; Fri/13-Sat/14, 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. Extended through April 27. 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)
Anatol Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $30-55. Previews Wed/11, 8pm. Opens Thu/12, 8pm. Runs Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through May 13. Aurora Theatre Company performs a world premiere translation of Arthur Schnitzler's drama about the love life of an Viennese philanderer.
Cabaret Larkspur Café Theater (American Legion Hall Post 313), 500 Magnolia, Larkspur; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25-45. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 7pm. Independent Cabaret Productions and Shakespeare at Stinson move their production of the Kander and Ebb classic from Fort Mason to the North Bay.
The Coast of Utopia: Voyage Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-30. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through April 29. Shotgun Players present Tom Stoppard's riff on pre-revolutionary Russia.
Hairspray Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City; www.broadwaybythebay.org. $20-48. Thu/12 and Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through April 22. Broadway By the Bay opens its 47th season with the John Waters-based, Tony-winning musical.
*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 May 6. 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)
Of Mice and Men TheatreWorks at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-69. Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through April 29. TheatreWorks performs the Steinbeck classic.
Red Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-83. Tue and Thu-Fri, 8pm (also April 26, 2pm; no show April 27); Wed, 7pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm (also Sat, 8pm; no 8pm show May 12; Sun, 7pm). Extended through May 12. Mark Rothko (David Chandler) isn't the only one painting with a broad brush in this labored and ultimately superficial two-hander by John Logan, enjoying a competent but underwhelming production by outgoing Berkeley Rep associate artistic director Les Waters. Set inside the late-1950s New York studio of the legendary abstract expressionist at the height of his fame, the play introduces a blunt and brash young painter named Ken (John Brummer) as Rothko's new hired hand, less a character than a crude dramatic device, there first as a sounding board for the pompous philosophizing that apparently comprises a good chunk of the artist's process and finally as a kind of mirror held up to the old iconoclast in challenging proximity to a new generation that must ultimately transcend Rothko's canvases in turn. The dialogue holds up signs announcing intellectual and aesthetic depths but these remain surface effects, reflecting only platitudes, while the posturing tends to reduce Rothko to caricature. Much of the self-consciously reluctant filial interaction here smacks of biographical sound bites or heavy-handed underscoring of theme, and tends toward the outright hokey when touching on the credulity-bending subject of Ken's murdered parents with the attendant shades this adds to Rothko's and the play's chosen color palette. (Avila)
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Extended run: May 5-27 (Sat-Sun, 11am); June 3-July 15 (Sun, 11am). Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. Wed-Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through April 22. $30-65. The company performs Triangle of the Squinches (Thu/12-Sun/15) and Scheherazade (April 18-22).
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina and Laguna, SF; www.improv.org. Fri/13 and April 27, 8pm: "Theatresports Madness,"$20. Sat/14, April 21, and 28, 8pm: "Improvised Hitchcock," $20.
"The Collection" Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Wed/11-Fri/13, 8pm. $20-50. Theatrical magician Christian Cagigal debuts his brand-new, top-secret show.
"Comedy SuperPAC: Promoting Good Comedy and Great Causes Since 2012!" Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF; www.hemlocktavern.com. Mon, 7pm. Through May 7. $5. Nate Green and W. Kamau Bell present this ongoing comedy showcase; this week's performers are Chris Garcia, Brendan McGowan, Jeff Kreisler, and Brandie Posey.
Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat/14-Sun/15, 8pm. $10-20. As part of the MOVE(MEN)T5 festival of men's choregraphy, De Hoyos performs Departing Things.
"Elect to Laugh" Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. Tue, 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.
"Heart and Soul: The Music of Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, and Whitney Houston" Rrazz Room, 222 Mason, SF; www.therrazzroom.com. Sat/14, 7 and 9:30pm. $35-45. Cabaret show paying homage to three of music's most beloved divas.
"Love/Hate" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Thu/12 and Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 7pm. $35-65. In association with the San Francisco Opera Center, ODC Theater presents the world premiere of a chamber opera by Jack Perla and Rob Bailis.
Natasha Carlitz Dance Ensemble Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.carlitzdance.org. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm. $14-24. The company performs With a Little Help From My Friends.
"Previously Secret Information" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.eventbrite.com. Sun/15, 7pm. The comedic storytelling series celebrates its second anniversary with performances by Joe Klocek, Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, and Nina G.
"Qcomedy Presents Bear Comedy Night" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.qcomedy.com. Mon/16, 8pm. $8-20. With Bob "Bobaloo" Koenig, Nick Leonard, and more.
Sing for America Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, SF; (415) 392-4400, www.singforamerica.org. Tue/17, 8pm. $30. Amateur singers in the SFA chorus perform alongside the San Francisco Boys' Chorus and professional soloists; ticket proceeds benefit Bay Area arts organizations.
Tim Rubel Human Shakes Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Thu/12-Fri/13, 8pm. $10-20. As part of the MOVE(MEN)T5 festival of men's choregraphy, the company performs We Have (Not).
"Uhane" Children's Creative Museum Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.creativity.org. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 2pm. $25. Purple Moon Dance Project founder and artistic director Jill Togawa leads this ten-women dance piece in her last San Francisco performance.
"All Agita All the Time" Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. Mon/16, 8pm. $10. Shotgun Cabaret presents First Person Singular's family-style reading of The Sopranos' pilot episode.
Dimensions Dance Theater Malonga Casquelourde Center, 1428 Alice, Oakl; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat/14, 8pm. $15-25. The company performs Down the Congo Line.