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.
Daughter of the Red Tzar Thick House Theatre, 1695 18th St, SF; www.thickhouse.org. $30. Opens Fri/24, 8pm. Runs Sat-Sun and Aug 31, 8pm. Through Sept 2. ScolaVox and First Look Sonoma present the world premiere of Lisa Scola-Prosek's chamber opera about a meeting between Churchill, Stalin, and Stalin's teenage daughter.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Previews Fri/24-Sat/23 and Aug 29, 8pm; Sun/26, 2pm; Tue/28, 7pm. Opens Aug 30, 8pm. Runs Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 30. Aurora Theatre Company opens its 21st season with Kristoffer Diaz's comedy about pro wrestlers.
The Fisherman's Wife La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Previews Thu/23-Fri/24, 8pm. Opens Sat/25, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. Impact Theatre performs Steve Yockey's tentacle-porn-inspired sex farce.
Time Stands Still TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, SF; www.theatreworks.org. $23-73. Previews Wed/22-Fri/24, 8pm. Opens Sat/25, 8pm. Runs Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Sept 16. TheatreWorks performs Donald Marguelis' drama about a couple one a photojournalist, one a war correspondent struggling with their recent experiences covering a war.
Believers Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $20-25. Thu/23-Sat/25, 8pm. As a couple of research scientists and a former couple to boot, Rocky Wise (Casey Fern) and Grace Wright (Maria Giere Marquis) are simply mad about love in Wily West's world premiere of local playwright Patricia Milton's exuberant but patchy comedy. Employed by a small, less than scrupulous pharmaceutical firm reeling from a product recall and attendant lawsuits, reclusive Rocky toils away after a formula for a drug that will inoculate the user against love a secret agenda of his own inspired by the broken heart Grace left him with several years earlier. His boss (a comically brassy Jon Fast) thinks he's working on a commissioned "love activator," and to that end woos back former employee Grace to keep the fires burning in the lab. The strained reunion does the trick, if not exactly in the way intended. Meanwhile, a wacky born-again receptionist (Kate Jones) "only recently come to the Lord" (and her Texan drawl by the sound of it) fields calls from desperate people in a world despoiled by corporate greed and seemingly already in the throes of the end times. There are some moments worthy of a titter or two, but director Sara Staley's cast is less than precise or compelling with dialogue that is already hit-and-miss. Despite a promising scenario, Believers remains too uneven and muddled to generate much love beyond the stage. (Avila)
Dog Sees God Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $16. Wed/22-Sat/25, 8pm. There was always a lightly subversive if not latently radical bent to Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts strip, with its implicit championing of nonconformity, its restless and half-confused longing, and its convincing blend of gentleness and cruelty. Playwright Bert V. Royal mines it all with inspired confidence and fighting spirit in his portrait of the Peanuts gang as a fractured set of contemporary fucked-up if formidable teens. First among them is a sullen but resilient CB (Andrew Humann), blockhead of the title, reeling from the death of his dog and his awakened love for broodingly gifted, deeply estranged pal Beethoven (Bobby Conte-Thornton). In Boxcar's winning production, the boisterous, often hilarious and poignant story which includes real-life issues of grief, abuse, abortion, homophobia, and suicide comes animated by a talented and thoroughly persuasive young cast under beautifully calibrated direction by artistic director Nick A. Olivero. (Avila)
Les Misérables Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market, SF; www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. $83-155. Wed/22-Sat/25, 8pm (also Wed/22 and Sat/25, 2pm); Sun/26, 2pm. SHN's Best of Broadway series brings to town the new 25th anniversary production of Cameron Mackintosh's musical giant, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. The revival at the Orpheum does without the famous rotating stage but nevertheless spares no expense or artistry in rendering the show's barrage of colorful Romantic scenes (with Matt Kinley's scenic design drawing painterly inspiration from Hugo's own oils) or its larger-than-life characters first and foremost Jean Valjean (a slim but passionate Peter Lockyer), nemesis Javert (Andrew Varela), and rescued orphan beauty Cosette (Lauren Wiley). Chris Jahnke contributes new orchestrations to the rollicking original score by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music) and Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics) in this flagrantly sentimental, somewhat problematic but still-stirring meld of music and melodrama in dutiful overlapping service of box office treasure and powerful humanist aspirations. (Avila)
My Fair Lady SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-70. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through Sept 29. SF Playhouse and artistic director Bill English (who helms) offer a swift, agreeable production of the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. The iconic class-conscious storyline revolves around a cocky linguist named Higgins (Johnny Moreno) who bets colleague Colonel Pickering (Richard Frederick) he can transform an irritable flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Monique Hafen), into a "lady" and pass her off in high society. A battle of wills and wits ensues interlarded with the "tragedy" of Alfred Doolittle (a shrewd and gleaming Charles Dean) and his reluctant upward fall into respectability and love (at least in the musical version) triumphs. The songs ("Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Get Me to the Church on Time," and the rest) remain evergreen in the cast's spirited performances, supported by two offstage pianos (brought to life by David Dobrusky and musical director Greg Mason) and nimble choreography from Kimberly Richards. Hafen's Eliza is especially admirable, projecting in dialogue and song a winning combination of childlike innocence and feminine potency. Moreno's Higgins is also good, unusually virile yet heady too, a convincingly flawed if charming egotist. And Frederick, who adds a passing hint of homoerotic energy to his portrayal of the devoted Pickering, is gently funny and wholly sympathetic. (Avila)
The Princess Bride: Live! Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; foulplaysf.com/princessbride. $20. Thu/23-Sat/25, 8pm. Dark Room Productions presents a live tribute to the cult fairy-tale movie.
Rights of Passage New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Previews Wed/22-Fri/24, 8pm. Opens Sat/25, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 16. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents the world premiere of Ed Decker and Robert Leone's multimedia play, inspired by global human rights laws in relation to sexual orientation.
Vital Signs Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat/25, 8:30pm. The Marsh San Francisco presents Alison Whittaker's behind-the-scenes look at nursing in America.
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm (starting Sept 6: also Thu, 8pm); Sat, 5pm. Extended through Sept 29. 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)
War Horse Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF; www.shnsf.com. $31-300. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 9. The juggernaut from the National Theatre of Great Britain, via Broadway and the Tony Awards, has pulled into the Curran for its Bay Area bow. The life-sized puppets are indeed all they're cracked up to be; and the story of a 16-year-old English farm boy (Andrew Veenstra) who searches for his beloved horse through the trenches of the Somme Valley during World War I, while peppered with much elementary humor too, is a good cry for those so inclined. The claim to being an antiwar play is only true to the extent that any war-is-hell backdrop and a plea for tolerance count a melodrama as "antiwar," but this is not Mother Courage and no serious attempt is made to investigate the subject. Closer to say it's Lassie Come Home where Lassie is a horse very ably brought to life by Handspring Puppet Company's ingenious puppeteers and designers, and amid a transporting and generally riveting mise-en-scène (complete with pointedly stirring live and recorded music). But the simplistic storyline and its obvious, somewhat ham-fisted resolution (adapted by Nick Stafford from Michael Morpurgo's novel) are too formulaic to be taken that seriously. And at two-and-a-half-hours, it's a long time coming. A shorter war, the Falklands say, would have done just as well and gotten people out before the ride began to chafe. (Avila)
Circle Mirror Transformation Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $20-57. Wed/22, 7:30pm; Thu/23-Sat/25, 8pm (also Sat/25, 2pm); Sun/26, 2 and 7pm. Annie Baker has enjoyed a wave of Bay Area premieres this year, beginning with Aurora's sharp staging of Body Awareness, followed by SF Playhouse's triumph with The Aliens. Now Marin Theatre Company and co-producers Encore Theatre Company offer Baker's other "Vermont play," set in a community center drama therapy class run by baby-boomer groovy lady Marty (Julia Brothers). She's joined in a series of drama exercises (and ill-masked personal convolutions) by her husband James (L. Peter Callender), fretting over his estrangement from his daughter by his first marriage; Schultz (Robert Parsons), a middle-aged recent divorcé smitten with the cute girl in the class; Theresa (Arwen Anderson), said cute girl, a nubile 30-something and recent New York transplant; and Lauren (Marissa Keltie), a reluctant, cloudy teen perpetually absent her mother's check for the class. If Boxcar Theatre's current production, Dog Sees God, builds flesh and bone from a comic strip, Baker's amusing, bite-sized scenes (separated by blackouts) tend to lean in the other direction. Despite elaboration of a certain dramatic metaphor flagged in the title, the play's thematic possibilities are restrained by an easy if highly palatable humor that flirts knowingly with caricature but to only middling affect. There's a move in the final scene that nicely expands the reach of the action, but that limited if affecting turn is two hours in the making. That said, this fine production insures it's no great burden getting there. The cast under director Kip Fagan is uniformly enjoyable. Brothers is terrific in giving Marty a bounding personality and just enough ambiguity to make her positive vibes suspect, and Callender finds wonderful opportunities for fleshing out the character of a charming but frustrated man who has not realized his potential. Parsons' at first foolishly giddy then bitterly imploded Schultz is wholly convincing opposite Anderson's zany but compelling Theresa. And Keltie's sly and sullen teen is rightly the smartest tool in the shed. (Avila)
For the Greater Good, Or The Last Election This week: Montclair Ball Field, Montclair; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Thu/23, 7pm. Willard Park, Berk; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Sat/25-Sun/26, 2pm. Various venues through Sept. 8. "Don't they understand that without us they don't have anything?" asks Gideon Bloodgood (Ed Holmes), investment banker at the top of the San Francisco Mime Troupe's vivisection of the "real" American Dream, For the Greater Good, Or the Last Election. But surely the hero of a Mime Troupe show cannot possibly be a billionaire? Well, sort of. Though Bloodgood enriches himself dishonestly with precarious investments and outright theft in this Occupy-era melodrama, he actually does occasionally spare a sentiment for Mom and apple pie, or anyway his daughter Alida (Lisa Hori-Garcia) and cookies baked by the unsuspecting victim of his ill-gotten gains, the Widow Fairweather (Keiko Shimosato Carreiro) now living at the last Occupy encampment standing in the city. Alida, however, displays no compunction in throwing aside his affection and her prospective seat in Congress, running off to join the occupiers for reasons that truthfully appear about as politically motivated as her father's parasitic avarice, leaving him to join forces instead with the most unlikely of allies the impeccable, ingenuous Lucy Fairweather (Velina Brown), heiress to a stolen legacy, and staunch patriot. Based loosely on 19th century play The Poor of New York, The Last Election attempts to turn a presumptive ode to the free market into its swan song with good-humored, if predictable, results. (Gluckstern)
Happy Hour with Kim Jong Il Cabaret at the Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750,l www.themarsh.org. Free. Fri/24, 6pm. Comedy work-in-progress by Kenny Yun, with live music by cabaret singer Candace Roberts.
Henry V Sequoia High School, 1201 Brewster, Redwood City; www.redwoodcity.org. Free. Sat/25, 7:30pm; Sun/26, 2pm. San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents the Bard's history play as part of its "Free Shakespeare in the Park" series.
Keith Moon/The Real Me TheaterStage at the March Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sept 13, 20, and 27, 8pm. Mike Berry workshops his new musical, featuring ten classic Who songs performed with a live band.
The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Oct 14. 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 Midsummer Night's Dream Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Belle, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-35. Check website for schedule. Through Sept 30. Marin Shakespeare Company performs the Bard's classic, transported to the shores of Hawaii.
Our Country's Good Redwood Amphiteatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake, Ross; www.porchlight.net. $15-30. Thu-Sun, 7:30pm. Through Sept 8. Porchlight Theatre Company presents an outdoor performance of Timberlake Wertenbaker's play about Royal Marines and prisoners in an 18th century New South Wales prison colony.
Precious Little Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $18-25. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sept 1 and 8, 3pm); Sun, 5pm. Through Sept 16. Shotgun Players presents Madeleine George's new play about an expectant mother who studies near-dead languages and befriends a "talking" gorilla.
"Along the Way" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.caitlinelliotdance.com, www.detourdance.com. Fri/24-Sun/26, 8pm. $15-30. Caitlin Elliott Dance Collective and Detour Dance present this evening of world premieres, including performances Fancy and Imitations of Intimacy, and the dance film Pedestrian Crossing.
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.improv.org. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 8. $10-25. This week: "Original Broadway Cast and Moments of Transition" (Thu/23); "Double Feature" (Fri/24); "The Naked Stage" (Sat/25).
Circus Finelli 50 Mason Social House, 50 Mason, SF; www.circusfinelli.com. Thu/23, 7-10pm. $6. Clowns, cocktails, comedy, and klezmer rule in this performance of "Big Time and Little Something's Big Adventure."
"Elect to Laugh" Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. Tue, 8pm. Through Nov 6. $15-50. Veteran political comedian Will Durst emphasizes he's watching the news and keeping track of the presidential race "so you don't have to." No kidding, it sounds like brutal work for anyone other than a professional comedian for whom alone it must be Willy Wonka's edible Eden of delicious material. Durst deserves thanks for ingesting this material and converting it into funny, but between the ingesting and out-jesting there's the risk of turning too palatable what amounts to a deeply offensive excuse for a democratic process, as we once again hurtle and are herded toward another election-year November, with its attendant massive anticlimax and hangover already so close you can touch them. Durst knows his politics and comedy backwards and forwards, and the evolving show, which pops up at the Marsh every Tuesday in the run-up to election night, offers consistent laughs born on his breezy, infectious delivery. One just wishes there were some alternative political universe that also made itself known alongside the deft two-party sportscasting. (Avila)
"Jump Into Dance! ODC School Family Day Open House" ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF; www.odcdance.org. Sun/26, 8:45am-3:30pm. Free. Children, teens, and their families are invited to check out the ODC School Youth and Teen Program, with sample dance classes and faculty on hand to answer questions.
Rome Kanda Main Pagoda Stage, Japantown's Peace Plaza, Geary and Buchanan, SF; www.j-pop.com. Sat/25, 2:30pm; Sun/26, 1pm. Free. The Japanese comedian stops by the J-Pop Summit Festival for a stage appearance and signing of his new digital manga series, Samurai Spirit: The Story of Rome Kanda.
Maurya Kerr/tinypistol Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Mon/27, 8pm. $18-23. WestWave Dance presents this evening of works, including world premiere FreakShow.
"Measure for Measure" Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; sftheaterpub.wordpress.com. Mon/27, 8pm. Free ($5 suggested donation). SF Theater Pub performs the Shakespeare play.
"San Francisco Drag King Contest" DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; www.sfdragkingcontest.com. Thu/23, 9pm. $20-35. The popular, raucous contest returns for its 17th annual incarnation.
"San Francisco Improv Festival" Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson, SF; www.sfimprovfestival.com. Wed/22-Sat/25. $5-35. With local improv talent including BATS Improv, Un-Scripted Theater Company, San Jose ComedySportz, and more.
"Sea Music Festival" San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Hyde Street Pier, SF; nps.gov/safr. Sat/25, 9:30am-5pm. $5 (15 and under, free). Singers, intrumentalists, and dance troupes perform in celebration of maritime heritage to coincide with the America's Cup races.
"Soundwave 5: Revelation Zen" San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page, SF; www.projectsoundwave.com. Sat/25, 6-9pm. $12-25. Performances by En, Sean McCann, and Marielle V. Jakobsons.
"Work More!" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thu/24-Sat/26, 8pm. $15-20. Theater performance meets nightlife experience in this drag installation with Mica Sigourney/VivvyAnne ForeverMORE and Ox.