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.
Henry V Presidio of San Francisco, Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, SF; www.sfshakes.org. Free. Opens Sat/1, 2pm. Runs Sat-Sun and Mon/3, 2pm. Through Sept 23. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival celebrates the 30th anniversary of Free Shakespeare in the Park with this history play.
Twelfth Night San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Hyde Street Pier, 2905 Hyde, SF; www.weplayers.org. $30-80. Previews Sat/1-Sun/2, 5:30pm. Opens Sept 7, 5:30pm. Runs Fri-Sun, 5:30pm (also Sat-Sun, noon; matinee only Sept 22; no performances Sept 29; evening performances only Oct 6-7). Through Oct 7. We Players board the Balclutha and the Eureka for this jazzy take on Shakespeare's romance.
Chinglish Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-99. Opens Wed/29, 8pm. Runs Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; no show Oct 5; no 2pm show Sept 8; additional 2pm shows Sept 6 and Oct 4); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through Oct 7. Berkeley Rep presents the West Coast premiere of David Henry Hwang's Broadway comedy.
The Death of the Novel San Jose Rep, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose; www.sjrep.com. $23-69. Previews Thu/30, 7:30pm; Fri/31-Sun/2, 2pm (also Sun/2), 7pm. Opens Sept 5, 7:30pm. Check web site for schedule. Through Sept 23. Vincent Kartheiser (a.k.a. Pete Campbell from Mad Men) stars in Jonathan Marc Feldman's drama about creativity in post-9/11 America at San Jose Rep.
Daughter of the Red Tzar Thick House Theatre, 1695 18th St, SF; www.thickhouse.org. $30. Fri/31-Sun/2, 8pm. 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.
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)
Rights of Passage New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. 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. New show day and date: Sun, 7pm. Extended through Sept 16. 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)
Blithe Spirit Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda; www.calshakes.org. $35-71. Wed/29-Thu/30, 7:30pm; Fri/31-Sat/1, 2pm; Sun/2, 4pm. Noël Coward's 1941 comedy, not exactly a paean to marriage, is nevertheless a romantic romp with just enough meat on its ethereal subject to make a meal of its triangular love affair. Appearing as the relevant points on that geometric form are a witty Coward-esque writer, Charles Condomine (Anthony Fusco), his confident equal and second wife Ruth (René Augesen), and the uninvited ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Jessica Kitchens). The unwieldy ménage arises from Charles's invitation to a local medium (Domenique Lozano), from whom he hopes to cull a juicy detail or two for his next book. He and Ruth, as well as their other dinner guests, Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (Kevin Rolston and Melissa Smith), do get a fine show out of the eccentric soiree, but soon Charles finds he's also now being haunted by Elvira, who only he can actually see and hear and who adamantly refuses to leave. Um, yeah: awkward. Anyway, what happens next is solidly entertaining in director Mark Rucker's polished production for Cal Shakes. Fusco and Augesen are a droll pair, while a beaming Kitchens brings a much appreciated brightness to the proceedings, even as Lozano's exuberant innocent, Madame Arcati, comes over as perhaps the most persuasive of all. (Avila)
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Previews Wed/29, 8pm. Opens Thu/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. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. The latest from playwright Steve Yockey (Bellwether, Skin) is an exercise in pure pleasure, not least for the devious sea creatures preying lustily and unashamedly on the hapless human flesh of a small coastal town. There, in cracked fairytale fashion, an unsuccessful fisherman named Cooper Minnow (an endearingly nerdy but passionate Maro Guevara) is preparing to set out to sea, leaving at home frustrated wife Vanessa (a wonderfully, volcanically bitchy yet complex Eliza Leoni) and their sinking marriage, when he meets an oddly brazen pair of sexy, sassy bathers in old-fashioned beach attire (the swimmingly synchronized duo of Sarah Coykendall and Roy Landaverde). At more or less the same moment, a devilishly dashing yet prim traveling salesman (poised, nicely offbeat Adrian Anchondo) is offering a clearly aroused Vanessa an erotic woodcut featuring monstrous tentacles groping human victims at a very familiar-looking dock. Will she take the woodcut? Will she ever! And later she'll defend her husband's honor and swap places with him too, much to the commercial advantage of the ever-accommodating salesman who — like Yockey's smart and sure sex farce — has a little something for everyone. Directed with smooth precision by Ben Randle for Berkeley's Impact Theatre, The Fisherman's Wife again finds Yockey playing productively with the fine fuzzy line separating human nature from nature at large (as in Large Animal Games, the winning 2009 co-production from Impact and Dad's Garage). The animals come through for playwright and company once more, with a thoroughly enjoyable comedy whose borrowed maritime mythos has just enough metaphorical pull to lead those so inclined out beyond the shallow waters. (Avila)
For the Greater Good, Or The Last Election This week: Nicholl Park, Richmond; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Thu/30, 7pm. Also Dolores Park, 19th St at Dolores, SF; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Sat/1-Mon/3, 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)
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 Sat/1 and Sept 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.
Time Stands Still TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, SF; www.theatreworks.org. $23-73. 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.
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: "The Fosse Posse and From Scratch" (Thu/30); "Romantic Comedy Musical" (Fri/1); "Bond...Improvised Bond" (Sat/2).
"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)
"RAWdance presents the Concept Series: 12" 66 Sanchez Studio, SF; www.rawdance.org. Sat/1-Sun/2, 8pm (also Sun/2, 3pm). Pay what you can. Informal and intimate salon of contemporary dance, with Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts, Yayoi Kambara, Palanza Dance, detour dance, and Chris Black.
Brian Regan Cobb's, 915 Columbus, SF; www.cobbscomedyclub.com. Fri/31, 8 and 10:15pm; Sat/1, 7:30 and 9:45pm. $45. The comedian performs a rare club date.
"The Romane Event Comedy Show" Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF; www.pacoromane.com. Wed/29, 8pm. $10. Comedy with Joe Tobin, Mike Spiegelman, Sergio Barajas, Sandra Risser, and host Amy Miller.
"Tagabanua" Union Square Park, Geary and Stockton, SF; www.kularts.org. Sun/2, 2pm. Free. Kularts attempts a world record for largest Palawan dance event with an outdoor performance of Jay Loyola's folkloric work. Learn the choreography at Kularts' website and join the flash mob.
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