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.
Annapurna Magic Theatre, Bldg D, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org . $20-60. Previews Wed/2-Sat/5, 8pm; Sun/6, 2:30pm; Tues/8, 7pm. Opens Nov 9, 8pm. Through Dec 4, showtimes vary. Magic Theatre performs Sharr White's world premiere drama about love's longevity.
More Human Than Human Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; (415) 401-7987, www.brownpapertickets.com . $25. Opens Fri/4, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. B. Duke's dystopian drama is inspired by Philip K. Dick.
Oh, Kay! Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org . $20-50. Previews Wed/2, 7pm; Thurs/3-Fri/4, 8pm. Opens Sat/5, 6pm. Runs Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Nov 20. 42nd Street Moon performs George and Ira Gershwin's Prohibition-set comedy.
The Temperamentals New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org . $25-45. Previews Fri/4-Sat/5 and Nov 9-11, 8pm; Sun/6, 2pm. Opens Nov 12, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 18. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs Jon Marans' drama about gay rights during the McCarthy era.
Two Dead Clowns Box Car Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $20. Previews Thurs/3, 8pm (free preview). Opens Fri/4, 7pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 7pm. Through Nov 26. Ronnie Larsen's new play explores the lives of Divine and John Wayne Gacy.
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-35. Opens Fri/4, 8pm. Runs Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through Nov 26. Brian Copeland (Not a Genuine Black Man) presents a workshop production of his new solo show.
*Working for the Mouse Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $22. Opens Thurs/3, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no performances Nov 24-26). Through Dec 17. It might not come as a surprise to hear that even "the happiest place on earth" has a dark side, but hearing Trevor Allen describe it during this reprise of 2002's Working for the Mouse will put a smile on your face as big as Mickey's. With a burst of youthful energy, Allen bounds onto the tiny stage of Impact Theatre to confess his one-time aspiration to never grow up — a desire which made auditioning for the role of Peter Pan at Disneyland a sensible career move. But in order to break into the big time of "charactering," one must pay some heavy, plush-covered dues. As Allen creeps up the costumed hierarchy one iconic cartoon figure at a time, he finds himself unwittingly enmeshed in a world full of backroom politics, union-busting, drug addled surfer dudes with peaches-and-cream complexions, sexual tension, showboating, job suspension, Make-A-Wish Foundation heartbreak, hash brownies, rabbit vomit, and accidental decapitation. Smoothly paced and astutely crafted, Mouse will either shatter your blissful ignorance or confirm your worst suspicions about the corporate Disney machine, but either way, it will probably make you treat any "Casual Seasonal Pageant Helpers" you see running around in their sweaty character suits with a whole lot more empathy. (Note: review from the show's recent run at La Val's Subterranean in Berkeley.) (Gluckstern)
Almost Nothing, Day of Absence Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post, SF; (415) 474-8800, www.lhtsf.org . $43-53. Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through Nov 20. The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre christens its grand new home near Union Square with two well-acted one-act plays under sharp direction by artistic director Steven Anthony Jones. Almost Nothing by Brazilian playwright Marcos Barbosa marks the North American premiere of an intriguing and shrewdly crafted Pinteresque drama, wherein a middle-class couple (Rhonnie Washington and Kathryn Tkel) returns home from an unexpected encounter at a stop light that leaves them jittery and distracted. As an eerie wind blows outside (in David Molina's atmospheric sound design), their conversation circles around the event as if fearing to name it outright. When a poor woman (Wilma Bonet) arrives claiming to have seen everything, the couple abandons rationalization for a practical emergency and a moral morass dictated by poverty and class advantage — negotiated on their behalf by a black market professional (Rudy Guerrero). Next comes a spirited revival of Douglas Turner Ward's Civil Rights–era Day of Absence (1965), a broad satire of Southern race relations that posits a day when all the "Neegras" mysteriously disappear, leaving white society helpless and desperate. The cast (in white face) excel at the high-energy comedy, and in staging the text director Jones makes a convincing parallel with today's anti-immigrant laws and rhetoric. But if the play remains topical in one way, its too-blunt agitprop mode makes the message plain immediately and interest accordingly pales rapidly. (Avila)
Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief Boxcar Theatre Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org . $15-35. Wed/2-Sat/5, 8pm. Written in 1979 by a 28-year-old Paula Vogel, Desdemona retells a familiar Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, through the eyes of its more marginalized characters, much as Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead did with Hamlet in 1966. In Vogel's play, it is the women of Othello — Desdemona the wife, Emilia her attendant (demoted down to washer-woman in Vogel's piece), and Bianca, Cassio's lover, and the bawdy town pump — who are the focus, and are the play's only onstage characters. Whiling away an endless afternoon cooped up in the back room of the governor's mansion, the flighty, spoiled, and frankly promiscuous Desdemona (Karina Wolfe) frets over the loss of her "crappy little snot-rag," while her subservient, pious, but quietly calculating washer-woman Emilia (Adrienne Krug) scrubs the sheets and mends the gubernatorial underpants with an attitude perfectly balanced between aggrieved, disapproving, and cautiously optimistic. Though the relationship between the two women often veers into uncomfortable condescension from both sides, their repartee generally feels natural and uncontrived. Less successfully portrayed is Theresa Miller's Bianca, whose Cockney accent is wont to slip, and whose character's boisterous nature feels all too frequently subdued. Jenn Scheller's billowing, laundry-line set softens the harsh edges of the stage, just as Emilia's final act of service for her doomed mistress softens, though not mitigates, her unwitting role in their mutual downfall. (Gluckstern)
Honey Brown Eyes SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org . $20-50. Wed/2-Thurs/3, 7pm; Fri/4-Sat/5, 8pm (also Sat/5, 3pm). Bosnia in 1992 is divided in a horrifying civil war, some characteristics of which play out in parallel circumstances for two members of a single rock band in SF Playhouse's west coast premiere of Stefanie Zadravec's new play. In the first act, set in Visegrad, a young Bosnian Muslim woman (Jennifer Stuckert) is held at gunpoint in her kitchen by a jumpy soldier (Nic Grelli) engaged in a mission of murder and dispossession known as ethnic cleansing. The second act moves to Sarajevo and the apartment of an elderly woman (Wanda McCaddon) who gives shelter and a rare meal to an army fugitive (Chad Deverman). He in turn keeps the bereaved if indomitable woman company. Director Susi Damilano and cast are clearly committed to Zadravec's ambitious if hobbled play, but the action can be too contrived and unrealistic (especially in act one) to be credible while the tone — zigzagging between the horror of atrocity and the offbeat gestures of romantic comedy — comes over as confused indecision rather than a deliberate concoction. (Avila)
How to Love Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.pustheatre.com . $15. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Nov 20. Performers Under Stress Theatre presents Megan Cohen's Plato-inspired world premiere.
*The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Nov 13. 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)
Making Porn Box Car Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $25-50. Thurs, 8pm; Thurs, 8pm; Fri-Sat, 9pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Nov 27. Ronnie Larsen brings back his crowd-pleasing comedy about the gay porn industry.
*"Master Harold" ... and the Boys Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.offbroadwaywest.org . $18-40. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. Based loosely on personal history, Athol Fugard's drama explores institutionalized racism in South Africa's apartheid era ensconced in the seemingly innocuous world of a Port Elizabeth tea room. The play opens during a rainy afternoon with no customers, leaving the Black African help, Willie (Anthony Rollins-Mullens) and Sam (LaMont Ridgell), with little to do but rehearse ballroom dance steps for a big competition coming up in a couple of weeks. When Hally (Adam Simpson), the owner's son, arrives from school, the atmosphere remains convivial at first then increasingly strained, as events happening outside the tea room conspire to tear apart their fragile camaraderie. The greatest burdens of the play are carried by Sam, who fills a range of roles for the increasingly pessimistic and emotionally-stunted Hally — teacher, student, surrogate father, confidante, and servant — all the while completely aware that their mutual love is almost certainly doomed to not survive past Hally's adolescence, and possibly not past the afternoon. Ridgell rises greatly to the challenges of his character, ably flanked by Rollins-Mullens, and Simpson; he embodies the depth of Sam's humanity, from his wisdom of experience, to his admiration for beauty, to his capacity to bear and finally to forgive Hally's need to lash out at him. It is a moving and memorable rendering. (Gluckstern)
Not Getting Any Younger Marsh San Francisco, Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 3pm. Extended through Dec 17. Marga Gomez is back at the Marsh, a couple of too-brief decades after inaugurating the theater's new stage with her first solo show — an apt setting, in other words, for the writer-performer's latest monologue, a reflection on the inevitable process of aging for a Latina lesbian comedian and artist who still hangs at Starbucks and can't be trusted with the details of her own Wikipedia entry. If the thought of someone as perennially irreverent, insouciant, and appealingly immature as Gomez makes you depressed, the show is, strangely enough, the best antidote. (Avila)
*The Odyssey Aboard Alma, Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, SF; www.weplayers.org . $160. Fri/4-Sun/6, Nov 11-12, and 18, 12:30pm. Heralding their hugely ambitious Spring 2012 production of The Odyssey, which will take place all over Angel Island, the WE Players are tackling the work on a slightly smaller scale by staging it on the historic scow schooner Alma, which is part of the Maritime National Historical Park fleet docked at the end of Hyde Street Pier. Using both boat and Bay as setting, the essential chapters of the ten-year voyage — encounters with the Cyclops, Circe, the Underworld, the Sirens, Aeolus, the Laestrygonians, and Calypso — are enacted through an intriguing mash-up of narration, choreography, sea chanteys, salty dog stories (like shaggy dog stories, but more water-logged), breathtaking views, and a few death-defying stunts the likes of which you won't see on many conventional stages. High points include the casual swapping of roles (every actor gets to play Odysseus, however briefly), Ross Travis' masked and flatulent Prometheus and sure-footed Hermes, Ava Roy's hot pants-clad Circe, Charlie Gurke's steady musical direction and multi-instrumental abilities, and the sail itself, an experiential bonus. Landlubbers beware, so much time facing the back of the boat where much of the action takes place can result in mild quease, even on a calm day. Take advantage of the downtime between scenes to walk around and face forward now and again. You'll want to anyway. (Gluckstern)
*On the Air Pier 29 on the Embarcadero (at Battery), SF; (415) 438-2668, love.zinzanni.org. $117 and up (includes dinner). Wed-Sat, 6pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Dec 31. Teatro ZinZanni's final production at its longtime nest on Pier 29 is a nostalgia-infused banquet of bits structured around an old-time radio variety show, featuring headliners Geoff Hoyle (Geezer) and blues singer Duffy Bishop. If you haven't seen juggling on the radio, for instance, it's pretty awesome, especially with a performer like Bernard Hazens, whose footing atop a precarious tower of tubes and cubes is already cringingly extraordinary. But all the performers are dependably first-rate, including Andrea Conway's comic chandelier lunacy, aerialist and enchanting space alien Elena Gatilova's gorgeous "circeaux" act, graceful hand-balancer Christopher Phi, class-act tapper Wayne Doba, and radio MC Mat Plendl's raucously tweeny hula-hooping. Add some sultry blues numbers by raunchy belter Bishop, Hoyle's masterful characterizations (including some wonderful shtick-within-a-shtick as one-liner maestro "Red Bottoms"), a few classic commercials, and a healthy dose of audience participation and you start to feel nicely satiated and ready for a good cigar. Smoothly helmed by ZinZanni creative director Norm Langill, On the Air signals off-the-air for the popular dinner circus — until it can secure a new patch of local real estate for its antique spiegeltent — so tune in while you may. (Avila)
*Pellas and Melisande Cutting Ball Theater, Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.cuttingball.com . $10-50. Thurs, 7:30; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through Nov 27. The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, the Swan Maiden: shimmering strands of each timeless tale twist through the melancholy tapestry of the Maurice Maeterlinck play Pelleas and Melisande, which opens Cutting Ball Theater's 12th season. Receiving a lushly atmospheric treatment by director and translator Rob Melrose, this ill-fated Symbolist drama stars Joshua Schell and Caitlyn Louchard as the doomed lovers. Trapped in the claustrophobic environs of an isolated castle at the edge of a forbidding forest and equally trapped in an inadvertent love triangle with the hale and hearty elder prince Golaud (Derek Fischer), Pelleas' brother and Melisande's husband, the desperate, unconsummated passion that builds between the two youngsters rivals that of Romeo and Juliet's, and leads to an ending even more tragic — lacking the bittersweet reconciliation of rival families that subverts the pure melodrama of the Shakespearean classic. Presented on a spare, wooden traverse stage (designed by Michael Locher), and accompanied by a smoothly-flowing score by Cliff Caruthers, the action is enhanced by Laura Arrington's haunting choreography, a silent contortionism which grips each character as they try desperately to convey the conflicting emotions which grip them without benefit of dialogue. Though described by Melrose as a "fairy tale world for adults," the dreamy gauze of Pelleas and Melisande peels away quickly enough to reveal a flinty and unsentimental heart. (Gluckstern)
Race American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org . $10-85. Opens Wed/26, 8pm. Tues-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (also Sun/6, 7pm). Through Nov 13. ACT performs David Mamet's wicked courtroom comedy.
The Rover, or the Banish'd Cavaliers, The American Clock Hastings Studio Theater, 77 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org . $10 ($15 for both productions). Through Sat/5, performance times vary. American Conservatory Theater's Masters of Fine Arts program presents plays in repertory by Aphra Behn and Arthur Miller.
Savage in Limbo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org . $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 3. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs John Patrick Shanley's edgy comedy.
"Shocktoberfest 12: Fear Over Frisco" Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; (415) 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com . $25-35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 19. In its annual season-scented horror bid, Thrillpeddlers joins forces with SF's Czar of Noir, writer-director Eddie Muller, for a sharply penned triplet of plays that resurrect lurid San Francisco lore as flesh-and-blood action. In the slightly sluggish but intriguing Grand Inquisitor, a solitary young woman modeling herself on Louise Brooks in Lulu (an alluringly Lulu-like Bonni Suval) believes she has located the Zodiac killer's widow (a sweet but cagey Mary Gibboney) — a scenario that just can't end well for somebody, yet manages to defy expectations. An Obvious Explanation turns on an amnesiac (Daniel Bakken) whose brother (Flynn de Marco) explains the female corpse in the rollaway (Zelda Koznofski) before asking bro where he hid a certain pile of money. Enter a brash doctor (Suval) with a new drug and ambitions of her own vis-à-vis the hapless head case. Russell Blackwood directs The Drug, which adapts a Grand Guignol classic to the hoity-toity milieu of the Van Nesses and seedy Chinatown opium dens, where a rough-playing attorney (an ever persuasive Eric Tyson Wertz) determines to turn a gruesome case involving the duplicitous Mrs. Van Ness (an equally sure, sultry Kära Emry) to his own advantage. The evening also offers a blackout spook show and some smoothly atmospheric musical numbers, including Muller's rousing "Fear Over Frisco" (music composed by Scrumbly Koldewyn; accompaniment by Steve Bolinger and Birdie-Bob Watt) and an aptly low-down Irving Berlin number — both winningly performed by the entire company. (Avila)
Sticky Time Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.vanguardianproductions.com . $15-40. Wed-Sat and Nov 14, 8pm. Through Nov 18. Crowded Fire and Vanguardian Productions present playwright-director Marilee Talkington's multimedia science fiction about a woman running out of time in the worst way. The prolix and histrionic story is the real sticking point, however, in this otherwise imaginatively staged piece, which places its audience on swivel chairs in the center of Brava's upstairs studio theater, transformed by designer Andrew Lu's raised stage and white video screens running the length of the walls into an enveloping aural (moody minimalistic score by Chao-Jan Chang) and visual landscape. Thea (Rami Margron) heads a three-person crew of celestial plumbers managing a sea of time "threads," an undulating web of crisscrossing lines (in the impressive video animation by Rebecca Longworth). The structure is plagued by a mysterious wave of "time quakes" that Tim (Lawrence Radecker) thinks he may have figured out. Coworker Emit (Michele Leavy), meanwhile, goofing around like a hyperactive child, spots some sort of beast at work in the ether. When Thea gets stuck by a loose thread, she becomes something of a time junky, desperate to relive the color-suffused world of love and family lost somewhere in space-time as reality starts to unravel (with a dramatic assist from cinematographer Lloyd Vance) and the crew seeks help from a wise figure in a tattered gown (Mollena Williams). A little like a frenetic, stagy version of Andrey Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972), the story gets credit for dramatizing some confounding facts about time and space at the particle level but might have benefited from less dialogue and more mystery —just as the audio-visual experience works best when the house lights are low. (Avila)
Totem Grand Chapiteau, AT&T Park, Parking Lot A, 74 Mission Rock, SF; cirquedusoleil.com/totem. $58-248.50. Tues-Sun, schedule varies. Extended through Dec 18. Cirque Du Soleil returns with its latest big-top production.
Annie Berkeley Playhouse, Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (510) 845-8542, www.berkeleyplayhouse.org . $17-35. Thurs-Sat, 7pm; Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Dec 4. Berkeley Playhouse performs the classic musical.
Doubt: A Parable Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.aeofberkeley.org . $12-15. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Nov 13, 2pm. Through Nov 19. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer-winning drama.
How to Write a New Book for the Bible Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org . $14.50-73. Tues, Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; no show Nov 18); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 7pm). Through Nov 20. An aspiring writer who later becomes a priest, Bill (Tyler Pierce) is the caregiver for his aging mother (Linda Gehringer) during her long bout with cancer. His father (Leo Marks), though already dead, still inhabits his mother's flickering concept of reality, made all the more dreamlike by her necessary dependence on pain medication. His brother (Aaron Blakely), meanwhile, has returned from Vietnam with survivor guilt but lands a meaningful career as a schoolteacher in the South. The latest from playwright Bill Cain (Equivocation, 9 Circles) is a humor-filled but sentimental and long-winded autobiographical reflection on family from the vantage of his mother's long illness. It gets a strong production from Berkeley Rep, with a slick cast under agile direction by Kent Nicholson, but it plays as if narrator Bill mistakenly believes he's stepped out of an Arthur Miller play, when in fact there's little here of dramatic interest and far too much jerking of tears. (Avila)
Rambo: The Missing Years Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Thurs-Fri, 7pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Dec 10. Howard "Hanoi Howie" Petrick presents his solo show about being an anti-war demonstrator — while also serving in the Army.
*Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org . $14.50-73. Wed-Sun, showtimes vary. Extended through Nov 12. The life of stage and screen legend Rita Moreno is a subject that has no trouble filling two swift and varied acts, especially as related in anecdote, song, comedy, and dance by the serene multiple–award-winning performer and Berkeley resident herself. Indeed, that so much material gets covered so succinctly but rarely abruptly is a real achievement of this attractively adorned autobiographical solo show crafted with playwright and Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone. (Avila)
Sam's Enchanted Evening TheaterStage at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Nov 26. The Residents wrote the script and did the musical arrangements for this musical, featuring singer Randy Rose and pianist Joshua Raoul Brody.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org . $8-50. Sun, 11am. Through Nov 20. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.