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 email@example.com . For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.
Maurice New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org . $25-45. Previews Wed/29-Fri/2, 8pm. Opens Sat/3, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 25. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents a play about two young men who fall in love in pre-World War I England, adapted from E.M. Forster's novel.
Merchants Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $10-25. Previews Thurs/1-Fri/2, 8pm. Opens Sat/3, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 24. No Nude Men Productions performs Susan Sobeloff's tale of two sisters trying to balance financial stability and career satisfaction.
*Blue/Orange Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post, SF; (415) 474-8800, www.lhtsf.org . $43-53. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm). Through March 18. Lorraine Hansberry Theater offers an uneven but worthwhile production of British playwright Joe Penhall's sardonic comedy of ideas and institutional racism, an intriguingly frustrating three-hander about a young doctor (a bright Dan Clegg) at a psychiatric teaching hospital who begins a battle royal with his suave and pompous supervising physician (a comically nimble Julian Lopez-Morillas) over the release of a questionably-sane black patient. Originally brought in by police for creating a disturbance, Christopher (the excellent Carl Lumbly) still exhibits signs of psychosis and his ability to care for himself seems doubtful to the young doctor treating him. The older physician appeals to the patient's general competence, hospital procedures, the shortage of beds, and the exigencies of career advancement in countering the younger doctor's insistence on keeping the patient beyond the mandatory 28-day period required by law. For his part, Christopher, nervous and rather manic, is at first desperately eager to be released back to his poor London neighborhood. Competing interviews with the two doctors complicate his perspective and ours repeatedly, however, as a heated debate about medicine, institutionalization, cultural antecedents to mental "illness," career arcs, and a "cure for black psychosis," leave everyone's sanity in doubt. Although our attention can be distracted by a too-pervading sound design and less than perfect British accents, Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe directs a strong and engaging cast in a politically resonant not to say increasingly maddening play. (Avila)
52 Man Pick Up Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; (415) 647-2822, www.brava.org . $10-25. Thurs/1-Sat/3, 8pm. Desiree Butch performs her solo show about a deck of cards' worth of sexual encounters.
Geezer Marsh San Francisco, MainStage, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $25-100. Thurs and Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 18. Geoff Hoyle's hit solo show returns.
Glengarry Glen Ross Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.brownpapertickets.com . $26-40. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through March 24. David Mamet's cutthroat comedy, courtesy of the Actors Theatre of San Francisco.
The Pirates of Penzance Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College, Berk; (510) 845-8542, www.juliamorgan.org . $17-35. Fri-Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through April 1. Berkeley Playhouse performs the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, with the setting shifted to a futuristic city.
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 18. Dan Hoyle revives his hit solo show about small-town America.
Scorched American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org . $10-85. Tues-Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat-Sun, 2pm. Through March 11. Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad bites off a little more than he can chew, and ACT thus offers a less than satisfying three-hour feast with its stilted production of Mouawad's 2008 epic about a brother and sister (Babak Tafti and Annie Purcell) sent by their estranged, recently deceased mother's executor (David Strathairn) on a hunt for her past in her unnamed civil war-torn Middle Eastern homeland. At that point, the story of their mother, Nawal (Marjan Neshat), comes center stage — or rather crisscrosses it with that of her children in a mash-up that only undercuts the potential tension or interest in either plot strand. Director Carey Perloff's cast also proves unevenly compelling. Strathairn's Alphonse is a compassionate, slyly wise man who nervously rambles to make up for the extremely laconic and resentful mood of Nawal's children. But he is of peripheral importance, and his malapropisms are laid on a little thicker than his endearing Quebecois accent, as if betraying the limits of his function onstage. The other characters meanwhile feel too thinly sketched to occupy the middle. As the sad and horrifying details of this Sophocles-inspired tale unfold, there is surprisingly little sense of authentic experience, and much more the feeling of over-indulgence it certain dramatic devices. Between the sententious and ponderous dialogue, strained characterization, and unwieldy storyline is a play flailing away at something beyond its ken or capacity. (Avila)
Three's Company Live! Finn's Funhouse, 814 Grove, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $20. Fri/2-Sat/3, 7 and 9pm. Cat Fights and Shoulder Pads Productions (best production company name ever?) brings the classic sitcom to the stage.
Tontlawald Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; (415) 525-1205, www.cuttingball.com . $10-50. Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through March 11. Entering the theater space thought the back door, squeezing alongside a giant fishing net motif, which wraps the entire stage in a fabric grid, almost imperceptibly skews one's perspective in advance of the show, just a brief twist that sets the tone for this abbreviated epic of abuse, friendship, and revenge. The heroine, an earthy yet somehow fragile maid (Marilet Martinez), inadvertently manages to rile her evil stepmother (Madeline H. D. Brown) for what seems to be the umpteenth time before fleeing into the mysterious wooded Tontlawald, inhabited by joyously frolicking beasts (or boys) and a preternaturally beautiful princess (Rebecca Frank) who immediately adopts her as a friend. Told through snatches of repetitive text, solemnly-intoned and ecstatically sung, and moments of engagingly acrobatic, hyper-stylized movement, Cutting Ball's Tontlawald meanders through an Estonian fairy tale-hero's quest, as if told from the perspective of the child protagonist — light on detail, heavy on drama. Inspired by TeatrZAR, the resident company of Poland's Grotowski Centre, co-directors Paige Rogers and Annie Paladino and choreographer Laura Arrington worked to emulate certain characteristics of its style, notably the emphasis on song. But while there are some gorgeously transcendent moments of musical direction courtesy of Rogers, and of choreography courtesy of Arrington, the work plays out mostly as a disjointed series of striking tableaux, which intrigue the intellect, but somehow fail to inflame the soul. (Gluckstern)
*Tree City Legends Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, SF; (415) 626-2787, www.theintersection.org . $20-25. Thurs/1-Sat/3, 8pm. The three surviving Kane brothers — Sum (Juan Amador), Min (Taiyo Na), and Denizen (Sean San José) — come together to remember in pain and ecstasy the life of their fallen fourth, Junie Kane (Dennis Kim), whose voice and shadow come back now and then through a materializing recording session with his band (Dirty Boots: James Dumalo and Rachel Lastimosa). Set in the violent, drug-addled, but tenacious streets of an imaginary Bay Area inner-city neighborhood called Tree City, Campo Santo's production of Kim's new play transforms the daytime office space at Intersection for the Arts into an all-embracing mise-en-scene that feels, intentionally, like a memorial service, a concert, a dreamy almost hallucinatory reverie, and an incipient rebellion. The shadow-filled, ritual-like atmosphere (lit by Darl Andrew Packard amid Joan Osato's lush, all-pervading video installation) suits well the play's roiling mix of grief, restive anger, defiant humor, and communion — given exquisite expression in both song and extended, persuasive monologues by the fine trio of actors. Directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the production's ability to envelop the audience in this raucous ceremony lends just the right support to Kim's strong, flowing, eloquent, and earthy ruminations on the fractious but soulful lives of the oppressed among us. (Avila)
*True West Boxcar Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; (415) 967-2227, www.boxcartheatre.org . $25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through April 7. The first installment of Boxcar Theatre's four-play Sam Shepard repertory project, True West ushers in the ambitious run with a bang. This tale of two brothers who gradually assume the role of the other is one of Shepard's most enduring plays, rich with humorous interludes, veering sharply into dangerous terrain at the drop of a toaster. In time-honored, True West tradition, the lead roles of Austin, the unassuming younger brother, and Lee, his violent older sibling, are being alternated between Nick A. Olivero and Brian Trybom, and in a new twist, the role of the mother is being played by two different actresses as well (Adrienne Krug and Katya Rivera). The evening I saw it, Olivero was playing Austin, a writer banging away at his first screenplay, and Trybom was Lee, a troubled, alcoholic drifter who usurps his brother's Hollywood shot, and trashes their mother's home while trying to honor his as yet unwritten "contract". The chemistry between the two actors was a perfect blend of menace and fraternity, and the extreme wreckage they make of both the set (designed by both actors), and their ever-tenuous relationship, was truly inspired. (Gluckstern)
*Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical Thrillpeddlers' Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; (415) 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com . $30-35. Fri/2-Sat/3, 8pm. Hot on the high heels of a 22-month run of Pearls Over Shanghai, the Thrillpeddlers are continuing their Theatre of the Ridiculous revival with a tits-up, balls-out production of the Cockettes' last musical, Vice Palace. Loosely based on the terrifyingly grim "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe, part of the thrill of Palace is the way that it weds the campy drag-glamour of Pearls Over Shanghai with the Thrillpeddlers' signature Grand Guignol aesthetic. From an opening number set on a plague-stricken street ("There's Blood on Your Face") to a charming little cabaret about Caligula, staged with live assassinations, an undercurrent of darkness runs like blood beneath the shameless slapstick of the thinly-plotted revue. As plague-obsessed hostess Divina (Leigh Crow) and her right-hand "gal" Bella (Eric Tyson Wertz) try to distract a group of stir-crazy socialites from the dangers outside the villa walls, the entertainments range from silly to salacious: a suggestively-sung song about camel's humps, the wistful ballad "Just a Lonely Little Turd," a truly unexpected Rite of Spring-style dance number entitled "Flesh Ballet." Sumptuously costumed by Kara Emry, cleverly lit by Nicholas Torre, accompanied by songwriter/lyricist (and original Cockette) Scrumbly Koldewyn, and anchored by a core of Thrillpeddler regulars, Palace is one nice vice. (Gluckstern)
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through March 24. Brian Copeland returns with a new solo show about his struggles with depression.
*Body Awareness Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org . $30-48. Tues, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through March 11. In Annie Baker's new comedy, receiving a top-notch Bay Area premiere at Aurora Theatre, peppy psychology prof Phyllis (Amy Resnick) hosts "Body Awareness Week" at her small Vermont college, while back home partner Joyce (Jeri Lynn Cohen) talks to her 21-year-old son Jared (Patrick Russell) about the porn pay-per-view bill he's racked up. Phyllis contends that Joyce's introverted, somewhat explosive virgin son (who in addition to bouts of violent anger soothes himself compulsively with an electric security toothbrush) has Asperger's Syndrome — a diagnosis that Jared, a budding not too say obsessive lexicographer, hotly contests. That same week, the couple hosts a guest artist, Frank (Howard Swain), a breezy man's man whose career stands squarely on a series of photographs of nude women and girls. The young man seeks sexual advice from the older one, much to Phyllis's disgust and Joyce's relief, while also tempting Joyce with the notion of posing for a nude portrait and "reclaiming her body image," in a well-used phrase. An already delicate balance thus goes right off kilter as, between the poles of Phyllis and Frank, Joyce and Jared chase competing notions and definitions of themselves and the world. In the volatile tension between perspectives, power trips, and extreme personalities, playwright Baker initially pushes a comic form toward an unsettling edge, only to retreat in the end for safer ground and a family-friendly resolution. While that feels like a lost opportunity, Body Awareness is still a stimulating and solidly entertaining evening, brought to life by a warm and dexterous ensemble under fine, lively direction by Joy Carlin. (Avila)
Counter Attack! Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 444-4755, ext. 114, www.stagebridge.org . $18-25. Wed/29-Thurs/1, 7:30pm; Fri/2-Sat/3, 8pm; Sun/4, 2pm. Stagebridge presents the world premiere of Joan Holden's waitress-centric play.
A Doctor in Spite of Himself Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org . $14.50-73. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (no show March 23); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through March 25. Berkeley Rep performs a contemporary update of the Molière comedy.
*The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s New venue: Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through March 25. 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)
Mesmeric Revelation Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381, www.centralworks.org . Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 18. Central Works opens its season of world premieres with Aaron Henne's Edgar Allen Poe-inspired drama.
Titus Andronicus La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com . $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 31. Impact Theatre takes on the Bard's bloodiest tragedy.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org . $8-50. Extended run: March 11 and 18, 11am. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
"The Abduction from the Seraglio (Yanked from the Harem)" Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, SF; www.pocketopera.org . Sun/4 and March 11, 2pm. Also March 18, 2pm, Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar, Berk. $15-39. Pocket Opera performs artistic director Donald Pippin's witty translation of Mozart's classic work.
"Alice Superbrain/The Twin Section" Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.975howard.com . Fri/2-Sat/3, 8pm. $10-20. Andrea Lanza's multidisciplinary perfomance is inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice adventures.
"Arthur in Underland" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org . Previews Fri/2-Sun/4, 8pm. Opens March 8, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sun, 8pm. Through March 24. $15-24. Dandelion Dancetheater performs a new work about a young man whose life is changed when he becomes part of a rock group's entourage.
"Elect to Laugh" Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . Tues, 8pm. Ongoing through Nov 6. $15-50. Will Durst and friends perform in this weekly political humor show that focuses on the upcoming presidential election.
"The Eric Show" Milk Bar, 1840 Haight, SF; www.milksf.com . Tues, 8pm (ongoing). $5. Local comedians perform with host Eric Barry.
"Finding the Michaels" Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . Sat/3 and March 9-10, 8pm; Sun/4, 3pm. Footloose presents Cassie Angley's solo play about her experiences in post-9/11 New York City.
Nina Haft & Company and Facing East Dance and Music ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odcdance.org . Fri/2-Sat/3, 8pm; Sat/3-Sun/4, 3pm. $18-24. The companies perform this.placed, a dance and multimedia performance about what the body remembers.
"The Whole Megillah 2: Uncut" Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida, SF; www.jccsf.org . Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 7 and 10pm. Through March 10. Also March 7, 8pm, Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF. $15-20. The Hub and Killing My Lobster present this Purim-themedsketch comedy show.