Stage Listings May 2-8, 2012

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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 listings@sfbg.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.

THEATER

OPENING

Down to This Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.sleepwalkerstheatre.com. $12-20. Opens Thu/3, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 26. Sleepwalkers Theatre performs a pulpy thriller with two possible endings.

"San Francisco International Arts Festival" Various venues, SF; www.sfiaf.org. Free-$70. May 2-20. Performance festival featuring theater and dance from Cuba, Iran, Russia, the U.S., China, Japan, Estonia, and more.

The Wrong Dick Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. $20. Opens Thu/3, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 26. Ham Pants Productions presents a noir-inspired comedy set in San Francisco.

Zorba Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson, SF; (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. $20-50. Previews Wed/2, 8pm; Thu/3-Fri/4, 8pm. Opens Sat/5, 6pm. Runs Wed, 7pm; Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 20. 42nd Street Moon performs Kander and Ebb's musical salute to Greece.

BAY AREA

Crevice La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Previews Thu/3-Fri/4, 8pm. Opens Sat/5, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through June 9. Impact Theatre and PlayGround present Lauren Yee's world premiere play about 20-something siblings whose couch-potato lives are uprooted when a chasm opens up in their living room.

ONGOING

Act One, Scene Two Phoenix Arts Association Theatre, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. 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.

*The Aliens SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org. $20-70. Wed/2-Thu/3, 7pm; Fri/4-Sat/5, 8pm. 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)

"Bay One Acts Festival" Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma, SF; www.bayoneacts.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/5 and May 12, 3pm); Sun, 3 and 7pm. Through May 12. Ten bold and adventurous short plays by local playwrights, performed two full programs running in repertory.

Fwd: Life Gone Viral Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm (no show Sun/6). Through June 10. The internet becomes comic fodder for creator-performers Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen, and creator-director David Ford.

*Hot Greeks Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Extended through May 19. 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, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm, Sun, 7pm. Extended through May 27. 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)

Killing My Lobster Chops Down the Family Tree TJT, 470 Florida, SF; www.killingmylobster.com. $10-22. Thu-Sat, 8pm (May 12, shows at 7 and 10pm); Sun, 7pm. Through May 13. The sketch comedy troupe performs a new show inspired by contemporary families.

Tenderloin Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; (415) 525-1205, www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Opens Thu/3, 7:30pm. Runs Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through May 27. Annie Elias and Cutting Ball Theater artists present a world premiere "documentary theater" piece looking at the people and places in the Cutting Ball Theater's own 'hood.

Thunder Above, Deeps Below Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-25. Thu/3-Sat/5, 8pm. Bindlestiff presents A. Rey Pamatmat's dramatic comedy about three homeless young adults.

The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through May 26. 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)

BAY AREA

Anatol Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $30-55. 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.

A Hot Day in Ephesus Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; info@aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Fri-Sat, 8pm; May 13, 2pm. Through May 19. Actors Ensemble performs the world premiere of a musical based on Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.

In Paris Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $22.50-125. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed, 7pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 13. Mikhail Baryshnikov stars in Dmitry Krymov's romantic new play.

*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/5, 8:30pm; Sun/6, 7pm. 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)

Lucky Duck Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-35. Thu and Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm (additional performance May 11, 7pm). Through May 13. Berkeley Playhouse performs a musical inspired by the "Ugly Duckling" tale.

Not Getting Any Younger Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through May 19. 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. Note: review from the show's 2011 run at the Marsh San Francisco. (Avila)

Oleanna Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.theatrefirst.com. $15-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through May 13. TheatreFIRST performs David Mamet's tense two-charater drama.

Red Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-83. Tue and Thu-Fri, 8pm; 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.

PERFORMANCE/DANCE

"Comedy SuperPAC: Promoting Good Comedy and Great Causes Since 2012!" Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF; www.hemlocktavern.com. Mon/7, 7pm. $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.

"Cutting Ball Theater Hidden Classics Reading Series" Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. Sun/6, 1pm. Free. Readings of three one-act August Strindberg plays.

"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.

"Gaia Grrrls" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/4-Sat/5, 8pm (also Sat/5, 4pm); Sun/6, 4pm. $17. Dance Brigade's Grrrl Brigade performs a contemporary dance-drama that takes on war and climate change.

"May Day: CounterPULSE's Performance Festival-Fundraiser" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thurs/3-Sat/5, 8pm. $30-150. Local dancers and performers come together to raise funds for the venue, a haven for experimental and risk-taking work.

"Picklewater Clown Cabaret: Cabaret of Sexy Sex!" Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Mon/7, 7 and 9pm. $15. Physical comedy, music, and mayhem.

"Radar Spectacle" Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF; www.radarproductions.org. Fri/4, 8pm. $15. Radar Lab benefits from this performance featuring music from Mirah, a reading by Armistead Maupin, a live art auction, and more.

"See Mom, I Didn't Forget!" Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sun/6, 2 and 7pm. $30. "Familial craziness" is the theme of this solo performance showcase in honor of Mother's Day.

Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.smuinballet.org. Wed/2-Sat/5, 8pm (also Sat/5, 2pm); Sun/6, 2pm. $25-62. Program includes the West Coast premiere of Val Caniparoli's Swipe and the world premiere of Ma Cong's Through. *