Stage listings

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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.

THEATER

OPENING

Black Watch Drill Court, Armory Community Center, 333 14th St, SF; www.act-sf.org. $100. Previews Thu/9-Sat/11, 8pm. Opens Sun/12, 7pm. Runs Tue-Sat, 8pm (Tue/14, show at 7pm; also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through June 16. American Conservatory Theater presents the National Theatre of Scotland's internationally acclaimed performance about Scottish soldiers serving in Iraq.

Vital Signs: The Pulse of an American Nurse Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Opens Sun/12, 7pm. Runs Sun, 7pm. Through June 16. Registered nurse Alison Whittaker returns to the Marsh with her behind-the-scenes show about working in a hospital.

ONGOING

Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm (Sat/11, show at 8pm). Through May 18. Playwright Lynne Kaufman invites you to take a trip with Richard Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass (Warren David Keith), as he recounts times high and low in this thoughtful, funny, and sometimes unexpected biographical rumination on the quest for truth and meaning in a seemingly random life by one of the big wigs of the psychedelic revolution and (with his classic book, Be Here Now) contemporary Eastern-looking spirituality. Directed by Joel Mullennix, the narrative begins with Ram Dass today, in his Hawaiian home and partly paralyzed from a stroke, but Keith (one of the Bay Area's best stage actors, who is predictably sure and engagingly multilayered in the role) soon shakes off the stiff arm and strained speech and springs to his feet to continue the narrative as the ideal self perhaps only transcendental consciousness and theater allow. Nevertheless, Kaufman's fun-loving and extroverted Alpert is no saint and no model of perfection, which is the refreshing truth explored in the play, but rather a seeker still, ever imperfect and ever trying for greater perfection or at least the wisdom of acceptance. As the privileged queer child of a wealthy Jewish lawyer and industrialist, Alpert was both insider and outsider from the get-go, and that tension and ambiguity makes for an interesting angle on his life as well as the complexities of his relationships with a homophobic Leary, for instance, and his conservative but ultimately loving father. Perfection aside, the beauty in the subject and the play is the subtle, shrewd cherishing of what remains unfinished. (Avila)

Boomeraging: From LSD to OMG Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Tue, 8pm. Through May 28. Comedian Will Durst performs his brand-new solo show.

Dirty Dancing: Live! Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; dirtydancinglive-fbe.eventbrite.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through May 25. Watermelons will be carried, lifts will be attempted, eyes will be hungry, and nobody better put Baby in a corner.

Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow's musical comedy revue all about food.

Last Love Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, SF; www.mojotheatre.com. $17-30. Thu-Sun, 8pm. Through May 19. Will the apocalypse save us from ourselves? Mojo Theater again raises that question as it presents the second installment in director-playwright Peter Papadopoulos' Love-Gone-Wrong-at-the-End-of-the-World trilogy, the follow-up to last season's fertile and funny Lost Love. The story centers on a George and Martha-esque couple, Charles (Jonathan Bender) and Lucida (Kimberly Lester), who on the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary declare all-out war, lobbing younger lovers at each other only to find their new partners (played by an increasingly endearing Michael Saenz and an unexpectedly powerful Gloria McDonald) have a past together and unresolved issues of their own. The grimly romantic comedy returns to, without greatly elaborating on, a familiar fantasy: blowing away the haze of our fractious, insecure, and muddled love lives in the clarifying immediacy of disaster. That this may be more than pure fantasy — that the seemingly discrete realms of personal and political trauma may be in some subtle and profound way connected — is an animating dimension of the trilogy, but here in a more superficial and perfunctory fashion than in Lost Love. The strength of the production lies less in its premise than in the penetrating humor and emotional veracity in Papadopoulos' sure, heightened dialogue, which is played generally well by the cast and exceptionally so by a vibrantly intelligent Lester, Mojo's co–artistic director. The staging also benefits, albeit inconsistently, from a stylized approach that revels in self-conscious artifice (including a trio of stage managers from "Command Center Communications," a video-backdrop by Micah Stieglitz, and some light choreography by Lester). These strengths lend a restless, occasionally inspired production a slow-burning charm, but leave one wondering what might be left when all the dust settles. (Avila)

Little Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstreetmoon.org. $25-75. Wed, 7pm; Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm. Through May 19. 42nd Street Moon performs Neil Simon's outrageous musical.

The Lost Folio: Shakespeare's Musicals Un-Scripted Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 18. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs a fully-improvised, full-length musical inspired by Shakespeare.

The Merry Wives of Windsor Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; www.african-americanshakes.org. $10-35. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 26. African-American Shakespeare Company performs a twist on the Shakespeare classic, set in an urban neighborhood in the 1950s.

"PlayGround Festival of New Works" Various venues, SF and Berk; www.playground-sf.org. $15-40. Through May 26. The 17th fest presented by "San Francisco's incubator for a new generation of playwrights" includes the PlayGround Film Festival, staged readings of four new full-length plays, a fully-produced program of six short plays, panel discussions, and more.

reasons to be pretty San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, Second Flr, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-100. Wed/8-Thu/9, 7pm; Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat/11, 3pm). Completing a trilogy of plays about body awareness and self-image (along with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig), Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty begins with a misconstrued remark that quickly gathers enough weight and momentum to tear three sets of relationships apart in the span of a two-hour play. The SF Playhouse production begins with a bang, or rather an awesomely knock-down, blow-out breakup fight between a righteously pissed-off Steph (Lauren English) and her awkwardly passive boyfriend Greg (Craig Marker), who has inadvertently referred to her as "regular" in a conversation with his jerkish buddy Kent (Patrick Russell), which she takes to mean he finds her ugly. English's Steph is at turns ferocious and fragile, and her comic timing as she eviscerates Greg's looks in a mall food court zings, while the hyperkinetic Russell elevates the condition of noxiously irredeemable douchebag to an art form. But terrific acting and polished design can only make up so much for a script that feels not only flawed, barely scratching the surface of the whys and wherefores each character has internalized an unrealistic view of the importance of conventional beauty standards, but also already dated, with its circa-2008 pop culture references. Ultimately it gives the impression of being a rerun of a Lifetime television drama that wraps itself up into a too-neat package just in time for the final credits to roll to its admittedly kickass soundtrack (provided by Billie Cox). (Gluckstern)

Sam I Am: A Processional of Short Plays and Prose About Samuel Beckett Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.pustheatre.com. $10-20. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm. Performers Under Stress remounts and revamps its series of short plays and pieces by Samuel Beckett, this time staging it throughout the basement quarters of Bindlestiff Studio, where audiences are led around an economical maze of performance spaces. Opening weekend consisted of too much text and too little in way of staging ideas, especially with several spoken selections of Beckett prose (which have reportedly since been dropped from the program). The best of what remains (in a program of six short plays total) includes Valerie Fachman's respectable performance as the disembodied "mouth" of the brilliant Not I; and James Udom and Geo Epsilany's duet in Rough for Theatre I, in which a wheelchair-bound food-hoarder (a softly eccentric Epsilany) strikes up a doomed friendship with a blind beggar (a solid Udom) amid a colorless and barren landscape. The bucket of Beckett dreary gets less satisfying from there, though director Scott Baker's wordless performance as the titular Joe in Eh Joe proves poised and the doubled voices in his head (by Melissa Clason and Allison Hunter Blackwell) both haunting and intriguing. (Avila)

Sex and the City: LIVE! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; trannyshack.com/sexandthecity. $25. Wed, 7 and 9pm. Open-ended. It seems a no-brainer. Not just the HBO series itself — that's definitely missing some gray matter — but putting it onstage as a drag show. Mais naturellement! Why was Sex and the City not conceived of as a drag show in the first place? Making the sordid not exactly palatable but somehow, I don't know, friendlier (and the canned a little cannier), Velvet Rage Productions mounts two verbatim episodes from the widely adored cable show, with Trannyshack's Heklina in a smashing portrayal of SJP's Carrie; D'Arcy Drollinger stealing much of the show as ever-randy Samantha (already more or less a gay man trapped in a woman's body); Lady Bear as an endearingly out-to-lunch Miranda; and ever assured, quick-witted Trixxie Carr as pent-up Charlotte. There's also a solid and enjoyable supporting cast courtesy of Cookie Dough, Jordan Wheeler, and Leigh Crow (as Mr. Big). That's some heavyweight talent trodding the straining boards of bar Rebel's tiny stage. The show's still two-dimensional, even in 3D, but noticeably bigger than your 50" plasma flat panel. (Avila)

Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through May 18. Self-awareness, self-actualization, self-aggrandizement — for these things we turn to the professionals: the self-empowerment coaches, the self-help authors and motivational speakers. What's the good of having a "self" unless someone shows you how to use it? Writer-performer Kurt Bodden's Steve Seabrook wants to sell you on a better you, but his "Better Than You" weekend seminar (and tie-in book series, assorted CDs, and other paraphernalia) belies a certain divided loyalty in its own self-flattering title. The bitter fruit of the personal growth industry may sound overly ripe for the picking, but Bodden's deftly executed "seminar" and its behind-the-scenes reveals, directed by Mark Kenward, explore the terrain with panache, cool wit, and shrewd characterization. As both writer and performer, Bodden keeps his Steve Seabrook just this side of overly sensational or maudlin, a believable figure, finally, whose all-too-ordinary life ends up something of a modest model of its own. (Avila)

Talk Radio Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through June 15. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs Eric Bogosian's breakthrough 1987 drama.

Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma: The Next Cockettes Musical Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through June 1. Thrillpeddlers and director Russell Blackwood continue their Theatre of the Ridiculous series with this 1971 musical from San Francisco's famed glitter-bearded acid queens, the Cockettes, revamped with a slew of new musical material by original member Scrumbly Koldewyn, and a freshly re-minted book co-written by Koldewyn and "Sweet Pam" Tent — both of whom join the large rotating cast of Thrillpeddler favorites alongside a third original Cockette, Rumi Missabu (playing diner waitress Brenda Breakfast like a deliciously unhinged scramble of Lucille Ball and Bette Davis). This is Thrillpeddlers' third Cockettes revival, a winning streak that started with Pearls Over Shanghai. While not quite as frisky or imaginative as the production of Pearls, it easily charms with its fine songs, nifty routines, exquisite costumes, steady flashes of wit, less consistent flashes of flesh, and de rigueur irreverence. The plot may not be very easy to follow, but then, except perhaps for the bubbly accounting of the notorious New York flop of the same show 42 years ago by Tent (as poisoned-pen gossip columnist Vedda Viper), it hardly matters. (Avila)

The Waiting Period Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through May 18. 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. Note: review from an earlier run of the same production. (Avila)

The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun, 11am. Through July 21. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns after a month-long hiatus with his popular, kid-friendly bubble show.

BAY AREA

The Arsonists Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $35-60. Wed/8-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 2 and 7pm. There's a lot of humor to be found in Alistair Beaton's crackling translation of Max Frisch's The Arsonists, playing now at the Aurora Theatre, but much of the laughter it elicits is of the nervous variety, as the play's mostly protagonist, the effete, bourgeois Herr Biedermann (Dan Hiatt) inadvertently signs off on his own destruction when he invites an uncouth arsonist to come and stay in his attic (Michael Ray Wisely). "If we assume everyone is an arsonist, where does that get us?" becomes his standard deflection, as one arsonist becomes two (adding in the unctuous, nihilistic Tim Kniffin), and the empty attic a repository for giant drums of gasoline, a detonator, and fuse wire — arousing the suspicions of a chorus of firefighters (Kevin Clarke, Tristan Cunningham, Michael Uy Kelly), who act as the conscience and guardians of the township. Although on the surface the scenario is patently absurd, the message that passivity in the face of evil is like helping to measure out the fuse wire that will eventually claim your life, is relatively clear. "Not every fire is determined by fate," point out the firefighters right in the first act. Hiatt, as Biedermann, strikes an admirable balance between loathsome and powerless, while Gwen Loeb shines as his socialite wife, Babette, as does Dina Percia as his agitated housemaid, Anna. (Gluckstern)

The Dead Girl Avant Garde, 1328 Fourth St, San Rafael; www.altertheater.org. $25. Wed, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 19. AlterTheater performs 90-year-old playwright Ann Brebner's new family drama.

A Killer Story Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thu-Sat, 8pm (pre-show cabaret at 7:15pm). Through May 18. Dan Harder's film noir-inspired detective tale premieres at the Marsh Berkeley.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-77. Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat and May 23, 2pm; no show May 24); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2). Through May 26. Mark Wing-Davey directs Berkeley Rep's take on the Bard.

PERFORMANCE/DANCE

"Bailout! Or can you picture this prophecy? The temperatures are too hot for me." Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/10-Sun/12, 8pm. Pay what you can. Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater perform a site-specific multidisciplinary performance inspired by environmental disasters.

"Bitch and Tell: A Real, Funny Show" Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.ftloose.org. Sat/11, 8pm. $8-10. Comedy with Tracy Shapiro, Carolé Acuña, Allison Mick, and more.

"Bob's Burgers Live!" Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California, SF; http://bit.ly/bobssanfrancisco. Sat/11, 8pm. $32.50. The cast of the animated series performs.

"Bound for Glory" Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. Fri/10, 7:30pm; Sat/11, 2pm. $8-50. Marsh Youth Theater's MainStage Performance Ensemble presents a musical (written by the ensemble with director Lisa Quoresimo) about a Dust Bowl-era family.

Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sun/12, 3 and 6:15pm. $29.95-49.95 (includes meal). Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.

"Comedy Returns to El Rio" El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; www.elriosf.com. Mon/13, 8pm. $7-20. Fourth anniversary show with Frankie Quiñones, Dan St. Paul, Aundre the Wonderwoman, and more.

"The Fantasticks" Mission Dolores Academy Auditorium, 3371 16th St, SF; www.16thstreetplayers.org. Fri/10 and Sat, 7:30pm (also Sat/11, 3pm); Sun, 3pm. Through May 19. Free. The 16th Street Players perform the classic musical.

"I Am a Lie that Always Tells the Truth" Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.kingdomofnot.com. Fri/10, 8pm. $10-20. The Kingdom of Not (Dan Carbone and Andrew Goldfarb) perform "music, monologues, and emergency dispatches."

"ImmigraNation" Punchline Comedy Club, 444 Battery, SF; www.punchlinecomedyclub.com. Tue/14, 8pm. $15. Comedy about the immigrant experience with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Samson Koletkar, and more.

"Mission Position Live" Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.

"Mortified" DNA Lounge, 373 11th St, SF; www.getmortified.com. Fri/10, 7:30pm. $21. Also Sat/11, 7:30pm, $20. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. The storytelling series, which specializes in all things embarassing, ups the ante with a Mother's Day theme this month.

"Mutant Creatures and Unlikely Teachers: Short Plays by Short People" Koret Auditorium, De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.stagewright.org. Tue/14, 11am. Free (advance reservations required). Also May 16, 6:30pm ($10) and May 17, 7pm ($50; fundraiser for StageWright program), Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.stagewright.org. StageWright presents plays by fifth graders at Starr King Elementary School, performed by professional actors and museums.

"Once in Love with Loesser" Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstreetmoon.org. Mon/13-Tue/14, 7pm. $45-70. 42nd Street Moon presents Tony nominee Emily Skinner performing songs by Frank Loesser.

Red Hots Burlesque El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; www.redhotsburlesque.com. Wed, 7:30-9pm. Ongoing. $5-10. Come for the burlesque show, stay for OMG! Karaoke starting at 8pm (no cover for karaoke).

San Francisco Ballet War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF; www.sfballet.org. Wed/8, 7:30pm; Thu/9-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat/11, 2pm); Sun/12, 2pm. $45-250. Performing the US premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella.

"San Francisco Magic Parlor" Chancellor Hotel Union Square, 433 Powell, SF; www.sfmagicparlor.com. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. $40. Magic vignettes with conjurer and storyteller Walt Anthony.

Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.smuinballet.org. Fri-Sat and May 16, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through May 19. $24-65. Also May 22-25, 8pm (also May 25, 2pm); May 26, 2pm. $52-68. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View. Also May 31-June 1, 8pm (also June 1, 2pm). $54-70. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek. The company presents the West Coast premiere of Helen Pickett's Petal and Darrell Grand Moultrie's JAZZIN', among other works.

"A Spaghetti Western" Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.clownsnotbombs.com. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat/11, 2pm). $15-20. ClownSnotBombs performs a circus adventure about pasta and the Wild West.

"Stretchmarks" Creativity Theater, Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.themommadrama.com. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm. $25. The Momma Drama presents this play as part of a mom-centric event on Mother's Day.

"Union Square Live" Union Square, between Post, Geary, Powell, and Stockton, SF; www.unionsquarelive.org. Through Oct 9. Free. Music, dance, circus arts, film, and more; dates and times vary, so check website for the latest.

"Yerba Buena Gardens Festival" Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission between 3rd and 4th Sts, SF; www.ybgfestival.org. Through Oct 15. Free. This week: "Asian Improv aRts: 25th Anniversary: Traditions in Transformation," Sat/11, 1-3pm; "Taiwan in the Gardens," Sun/12, 1-2:30pm.

BAY AREA

Company C Contemporary Ballet Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek; www.lesherartscenter.org. Thu/9-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 1pm. $23-45. The company's spring program features Natoma, a world premiere by Company C dancer David von Ligon.

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft at Telegraph, UC Berkeley, Berk; www.calperformances.org. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm; Sun/12, 3pm. $30-92. The company performs the Bay Area premiere of its latest ballet, Rodin.

"A History of the Body" Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 Ninth St, #290, Oakl; historyofbody.eventbrite.com. Sat/11, 7:30pm. $15-25. Work-in-progress performance of Aimee Suzara's new play.

Oakland Ballet Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice, Oakl; www.oaklandballet.org. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm). $20-35. The company performs its spring season program, "Diaghilev Imagery."

"The Shout: Life's True Stories" Grand Lake Coffee House, 440 Grand, Oakl; www.theshoutstorytelling.com. Mon/13, 7:30pm. $5-20. Ten-minute tales from a variety of storytellers.

"Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun" Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. June 3 and 17, 8pm. $15. Shotgun Cabaret presents John Mercer in a series of three stranger-than-fiction dramatic readings.