Fall Arts Preview: Theater gets political, playful, potent
Fall arts resolution No. 1: have no faith in leaders. Obummer and McPain will only disappoint, or worse. (Probably worse.) If faith you must ooze, kindly direct it toward people who really care about you and have your interests at heart. Why did Gore Vidal write his play The Best Man (1960), for instance? Most likely it wasn't to get elected (though he did try). And Frank Wedekind was even less enamored of the powers that be when he penned his way-pre-punk "tragedy of childhood," Spring Awakening, a late 19th-century cri de coeur against authority whose transition to Broadway and electric guitars has both an aptness and an irony going for it that might have amused old FW. As Tom Stoppard confirms, power is a compromised and compromising affair whatever side of history you happen to be on, but rock 'n' roll will save your soul. So will Teddy Pendergrass, for that matter, as soul-survivor and kinetic Philly memoirist Colman Domingo brilliantly attests. So this fall, remember who your real friends are. You can direct any remaining or follow-up questions to author-playwright Kobo Abe, as well as the other miscellaneous sage nonconformists referenced in the list below.
The Best Man A Broadway hit for Gore Vidal, this political comedy-drama remains fresh as a daisy, if such a sweet olfactory simile can apply to the mosh pit of electoral politics.
Now playing through Sept. 28. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk. (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org 
San Francisco Fringe Festival The mighty Exit Theatre turned 25 this year. The SF Fringe Festival, the annual small-theater smorgasbord the Exit serves up each fall, turns a sexy 17. Judging by this year's lineup, that means stripped-down, butt-plugged, bare-bones, rock-hard, strap-on sexy.
Sept. 314. Various venues, including the Exit Theatres, 156 Eddy, SF. www.sffringe.org 
A Boy and His Soul (Thick House) and A Bronx Tale (Golden Gate Theatre) If only it were a double bill. These two solo plays about growing up (in Philadelphia and the titular Bronx) take place on radically different Bay Area stages, and deal with radically different stages in the lives of what you might call radically different actors (Coleman Domingo and Chazz Palminteri, respectively). Both are masterful, and as long as you're at it, throw in Carlo D'Amore's own deft and hilarious family-centered solo, No Parole, coming to the Marsh in November (www.themarsh.org ).
Sept. 314. Thick House, 1695 18th St., SF. www.thickhouse.org 
Sept. 23Oct. 19. Golden Gate Theatre, One Taylor, SF. www.shnsf.com 
Spring Awakening Best of Broadway brings to town this rock musical makeover of Wedekind's great drama.
Sept. 4Oct. 12. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF. www.shnsf.com 
Rock 'N' Roll Here comes Tom Stoppard's character-concentrated take on Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution, as well as on leftist politics across several decades of Cold War history. It's a good play to argue about afterward, in your highest pinko dudgeon, over pinot and tartare de boeuf at the Grand Cafe.
Sept. 11Oct. 12. American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary, SF. (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org 
HyperReal Bay Area performance artist Sara Kraft's low-key brilliance by now merits a neologism: krafty (with a k!). Krafty = shrewd, inventive, technically savvy, wry, playful, tuneful, eerie, unsettling, and, generally speaking, not to be missed.
Oct. 1012. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/36251 
War Peace: The One Drop Rule Living Word Festival 2008, titled "Race Is Fiction," features a new collaborative work by Youth Speaks alumni and Teen Poetry Slam champions Chinaka Hodge, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, and Nico Cary. Directed by festival curator Marc Bamuthi Joseph, War Peace imagines a drought-ravaged Bay Area as potential war zone.
Oct. 2324. Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, SF. www.youthspeaks.org 
Angry Black White Boy Felonious' Dan Wolf and Tommy Shepherd unveil a poetical rap-fused remix of Adam Mansbach's satirical and incendiary novel about race and identity in the United States, adapted by Wolf.
Oct. 23Nov. 16. Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia, SF. www.theintersection.org 
Continuous City Last year's work-in-progress is this year's full-fledged multimedia outing as New York Citybased boundary pushers, the Builders Association, returns with a three-pronged narrative (incorporating much Bay Areaderived material) negotiating the ever-more permeable membrane between the global and the local, and our networked and unplugged experience.
Nov. 68. Novellus Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org 
Friends Brava! For Women in the Arts' new artistic director Raelle Myrick-Hodges carries forward the spirit of its founding mission with offerings eclectic and unexpected. The revival of Woman in the Dunes author Kobo Abe's play Friends promises to be a timely and potent production, though Abe penned his scathing absurdist take on gentrification some four decades ago.
Nov. 617. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., SF. (415) 647-2822, www.brava.org