FALL ARTS: Bay Area stages cover the gulf and cruise the outer limits this fall
FALL ARTS The Brother/Sister Plays The most anticipated event of a rather sparkling fall theater lineup is surely this triptych of plays penned by a 20-something playwright being hailed as a vital new voice in American theater. Tarell Alvin McCraney's celebrated trilogy, which premiered at New York's Public Theater, delves with potent language and exceptional theatrical imagination into the lives of ordinary people in the bayous of Louisiana, its setting and themes made more urgent than ever in the wake of manmade catastrophe in the gulf. To make room for this epic work, three of San Francisco's leading theaters are collaborating in the presentation of all three plays, with mid-September seeing the unveiling of In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company and The Brothers Size at the Magic, and October following with Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet at ACT. Sept.–Oct., various venues; www.brothersisterplays.org .
How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? Ralph Lemon began as a dancer/choreographer but has evolved into an interdisciplinary artist of broad scope and rigorous invention. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents his latest multimedia piece, which unfurls in four separate events or chapters, together combining live performance, visual art and film in various spaces. Oct. 7-9, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org .
Etiquette This half-hour, site-specific, audience-as-actor piece from lauded London-based experimental theater company Rotozaza plants two willing participants at a time in a San Francisco eatery (The Grove on Mission Street), wearing headphones that feed them their lines and actions. First launched in London in 2007, the globetrotting piece arrives in SF. Sept. 16-Oct. 3, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, www.ybca.org .
The Companion Piece A vaudeville duo struggle to cobble together their floundering opening act alongside the aesthetic perfection of the Headliner, as Z Space at Theater Artaud presents a new devised work conceived by actor Beth Wilmurt and directed by Mark Jackson. But this opportunity is more than the finished piece, which is still evolving ahead of its premiere in early 2011. This fall, audiences are invited into the process — by walking into the theater or watching streaming video online. Check the Z Space website for details. Jan. 16- Feb. 26, 2011, Z Space; www.zspace.org 
Coraline It started as a book; it was made into a stop-motion animated feature; now it's a musical brought to life by composer Stephin Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields) and playwright David Greenspan (She Stoops to Comedy; Dead Mother). Together they compliment the decidedly weird imagination of author Neil Gaiman, a latter-day Lewis Carroll of the children's fiction genre who penned this creepy-funny story of a little girl's battle against chaos and evil in a bizarre world just on the other side of the drawing room door. This West Coast premiere by astute presenter SF Playhouse will mark only the second production of Coraline after its initial off-Broadway run in 2009. Nov. 16–Jan. 15, SF Playhouse; www.sfplayhouse.org .
Compulsion Berkeley Rep, New York's Public Theater. and Yale Repertory Theatre present Rinne Groff's play based on the life of writer Meyer Levin and his complex obsession with producing his own version of a play based on the diary of Anne Frank. The Public's Oscar Eustis, who cut his teeth at San Francisco's storied Eureka Theater in the 1980s setting, among other things, Angels in America aloft, returns to the Bay Area to direct lead Mandy Patinkin amid a cast augmented by marionettes. Sept. 13-Oct. 31, Berkeley Rep; www.berkeleyrep.org .
San Francisco Fringe Festival A perennial, a pearl, a Road Trip to Pluto (judging by one title), the Exit Theatre–sponsored San Francisco Fringe Festival is always a trip. Sept. 8–19, various venues; www.sffringe.org .
Port Out, Starboard Home I recently saw a staged reading of this new work from New York playwright Sheila Callaghan at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. While Callaghan is still developing the piece with producing company foolsFURY, it seems clear the finished product — set aboard a mysteriously intense cruise liner among a group of vacationing seekers in the material world — should be well worth a look. But this production has yet to find a safe harbor. It will apparently be docking at a theater near you this fall. Date and venue TBD; www.foolsfury.org .
Failure to Communicate Performers Under Stress (PUS) opens its season with a new work of physical theater channeling the perspectives and inner visions of students and teachers at an inner-city high school for severely behavior disordered, emotionally disturbed, learning disabled children, based on the teaching experiences of the company's managing director, Valerie Fachman. Oct. 29-Nov. 14, The Garage; www.pustheatre.com 
Anton in Show Business (Sept. 2–Sept. 26) Three nightmare actresses come together in San Antonio, Texas, for a dismaying production of Chekhov's Three Sisters in Jane Martin's 2001 award-winning send-up of the theater world. Oakland's ever able TheatreFIRST leads off its new season with this swift and ruthless backstage comedy, helmed by artistic director Michael Storm and featuring a strong all-female cast meting out satirical justice to the men and women (and critics) of the art form and the dubious cultural landscape at large. Sept. 2-26, Marion E. Greene Black Box Theater; www.theatrefirst.com .