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.
Sam Marlowe and the Mean Streets of San Francisco Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; (415) 412-3989, www.catchynametheatre.org . $20. Opens Thurs/15, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through April 7. Catchy Name Theatre presents a world premiere noir play by Jim Strope.
The Coast of Utopia: Voyage Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org . $20-30. Previews Wed/14-Thurs/15, 7pm; Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 5pm. Opens March 23, 8pm. Runs Wed-Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through April 29. Shotgun Players present Tom Stoppard's riff on pre-revolutionary Russia.
Red Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org . $14.50-83. Previews Fri/16-Sat/17 and Tues/20, 8pm; Sun/18, 7pm. Opens March 22, 8pm. Runs Tues and Thurs-Fri, 8pm (also March 29 and April 26, 2pm; no show April 27); Wed, 7pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm (also Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm; no matinees Sat/17-Sun/18 or March 31). Through April 29. Berkeley Rep performs John Logan's Tony Award-winning play about artist Mark Rothko.
*Blue/Orange Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post, SF; (415) 474-8800, www.lhtsf.org . $43-53. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm); Sun/18, 2pm. 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)
"Celebration of Women's History Month:" The Right Thing Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.3girlstheatre.org . $30. Dates and showtimes vary. Through April 1. Over one long day of legal mediation, aggrieved former CEO Zell Gardner (a brash but vulnerable Catherine Castellanos) and attorney Manny Diamond (a sharp, loquacious Louis Parnell) square off against Zell's former Big Pharma pals headed up by vindictive interim CEO David Heller (a coolly cutting Lol Levy) flanked by Zell's longtime colleague Chris McKnight (a nicely down-to-earth John Flanagan). Zell's lawyer becomes increasingly ambivalent, however, as Manny discovers his tough, brassy mess of a pill-popping client has been less than forthcoming about the charge of sexual harassment the other side is using to justify her dismissal and the company's pocketing of the three million Zell expected as compensation a charge involving Zell's 19-year-old goddaughter, Sam (Karina Wolfe). Attempting to reconcile the parties and broker a deal is retired judge Leigh Mansfield (Helen Shumaker), but she has her work cut out for her with this crowd. AJ Baker's new drama the inaugural production of newcomers 3Girls Theatre take issues of sexual politics and power in its high-powered setting and cracks them against the everyday familial and social dynamics that are perhaps a casualty of the corporate ethos, but without opening them up to a satisfactory degree. Director Suze M. Allen assembles a generally strong cast (Castellanos is riveting throughout), and some scenes smolder with just the right teeth-baring tension, but pacing is inconsistent and the script's own wayward drift together with an odd, unnecessary video backdropdistract from the concentrated treatment the story demands. (Avila)
*Fool For Love Boxcar Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org . $25. Showtimes vary. Through April 14. Another installment of Boxcar Theatre's epic Sam Shepard repertory project, Fool for Love inaugurates their newest performance space within their Hyde Street Studios location. A depressingly realistic reproduction of a claustrophobic motel room, the tiny jewel-box theatre provides no refuge for the actors, and certainly not for the audience, each trapped beneath the pitiless gaze of the other. And if that too-close-for-comfort intimacy doesn't get to you, the intentionally difficult subject matter a "typical" Shepardian foray into alcohol-fueled ranting, violence, incest, and casual cruelty probably will. Shepard's strength in monologue shows itself off to meaty effect from May's (Lauren Doucette) melancholy description of her mother's love affair with the Old Man (Jeff Garrett) to Eddie's (Brian Trybom) candid admittance to May's timid suitor Martin (Geoffrey Nolan) that he and May are not cousins at all but half-siblings who have "fooled around" with each other. In addition to the reliably strong performances from each of the actors, Fool features a notably clever bit of staging involving the Old Man who appears not as a specter wandering the periphery of the stage, but as a recurring figure on the black-and-white television, interrupting the flow of cheesy Westerns with his garrulous trailer park wisdom and an omnipresent Styrofoam cup filled, one suspects, with something stronger than just coffee. (Gluckstern)
Geezer Marsh San Francisco, MainStage, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $25-100. Thurs/15 and Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 5pm. 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.
It's All the Rage Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm, Sun, 7pm. Through April 15. Longtime comedian and radio host Marilyn Pittman's solo play wrestles with the legacy of her parents' violent deaths in a 1997 murder-suicide initiated by her father. It's disturbing material that Pittman, a stout middle-aged woman with a gregarious and bounding personality, approaches indirectly via a good deal of humor including recounting the first time she did her growing-up-lesbian bit before her mother in a DC comedy club. But the pain and confusion trailing her for 13 years is never far behind, whether in accounts of her own battle with anger (and the broken relationships it has left in its wake) or in ominous memories of her too complacent mother or her charming but domineering father, whose controlling behavior extended to casually announcing murderous dreams while policing the boundaries of his marriage against family interference. A fine mimic, Pittman deploys a Southern lilt in playing each parent, on a stage decorated with a hint of their Southwestern furnishings and a framed set of parental photographs. In not exactly knowing where to lay blame for, or find meaning in, such a horrifying act, the play itself mimics in subtler form the emotional tumult left behind. There's a too brief but eerie scene in which her veteran father makes reference to a murder among fellow soldiers en route to war, but while PTSD is mentioned (including as an unwanted patrimony), the 60-minute narrative crafted by Pittman and director David Ford wisely eschews any pat explanation. If transitions are occasionally awkward and the pace a bit loose, the play leaves one with an uncomfortable sense of the darker aspects of love, mingled with vague concentric histories of trauma and dislocation in a weird, sad tale of destruction and staying power. Note: review from the show's 2009 run at the Marsh. (Avila)
Julius Caesar Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.african-americanshakes.org . $10-30. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 4pm. Through April 1. African-American Shakespeare Company performs a version of the Bard's classic set during the ongoing civil wars of West Africa.
*Maurice New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org . $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through March 25. The eponymous hero of E.M. Forster's late novel (written early but published only posthumously) wrestles with his love for another man in Edwardian England oscillating between defiant assertion of feeling and an anguished recoil into desperate treatments like hypnotism but manages to find happiness as a homosexual by the end of the story. No doubt that would have most appalled the guardians of those extremely homophobic, repressive times. Today there's still much to recognize in the confused feelings and social censure faced by such a figure, though what helps make the 1998 stage adaptation (by Brits Andy Graham and Roger Parsley) so compelling a story is the not always flattering complexity and honesty with which Forster portrays the (at least partly autobiographical) Maurice Hall played winningly by an intelligent, agile Soren Santos in New Conservatory Theatre Center's persuasive U.S. premiere. Maurice's outré sexuality is one thing; his class position and status as a man are another, affording him certain limited protection and also contributing to certain weaknesses of character, which become most apparent vis-à-vis his mother (a quietly potent Lindsey Murray) and sister (an effervescent Hilary Hyatt) as well as his second love, ambitious young laborer Alec Scudder (a nicely restrained Andrew Nolan). Director George Maguire rightly concentrates on the reciprocal influences between these vital characters and gets fine performances from his entire cast in an uncluttered, sure and measured production, with capable John Hurst in several supporting roles and Alex Kirschner doing excellent work as Clive Durham, Maurice's Cambridge classmate and mercurial first love. (Avila)
Merchants Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through March 24. According to playwright Susan Sobeloff, the vision for Merchants, premiering this month at the EXIT Theatre, came to her after watching Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a play at least partially responsible for cementing the caricature of the money-hungry Jew in Western literary tradition for centuries to come. Her intention to write a play featuring a family of more "rounded" Jews doesn't entirely coalesce once it becomes clear that the bulk of the dramatic tension actually revolves very closely around monetary concerns. As one family business folds, and other members get squeezed out of their jobs by the new economy, a new family business of sorts begins to grow around the quirky, confessional performance art of youngest daughter, Mercedes (Maura Halloran). Emotional blackmail and sheer desperation kickstart their efforts to turn Mercedes into a financially-sustainable "brand," while the all too human costs of burnout, fatigue, and simmering resentments are roundly disregarded, until a crisis point is reached. It's difficult to connect with this particular set of almost comically self-absorbed characters, despite the desire to root for the underdog, and the play would have benefited from a staging that allowed either more humor or more humanity to creep into the relentless tirades that characterize much of the dialogue. (Gluckstern)
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm; Sun/18, 2pm. Extended through April 14. Dan Hoyle revives his hit solo show about small-town America.
*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)
Waiting for Godot New venue: SF Playhouse Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 336-3522, www.tidestheatre.org . $20-32. Thurs, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm. Extended through April 14. The fuchsia papier-mâché tree and swirling grey-on-white floor pattern (courtesy of scenic designer Richard Colman) lend a psychedelic accent to the famously barren landscape inhabited by Vladimir (Keith Burkland) and Estragon (Jack Halton) in this production of the Samuel Beckett play by newcomers Tides Theatre. The best moments here broadcast the brooding beauty of the avant-garde classic, with its purposely vague but readily familiar world of viciousness, servility, trauma, want, fear, grudging compassion, and the daring, fragile humor that can look it all squarely in the eye. (Avila)
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through April 27. 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. (Avila)
Cabaret Larkspur Café Theater (American Legion Hall Post 313), 500 Magnolia, Larkspur; www.brownpapertickets.com . $25-45. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm (no show April 8). Through April 15. Independent Cabaret Productions and Shakespeare at Stinson move their production of the Kander and Ebb classic from Fort Mason to the North Bay.
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 May 6. 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/15-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 5pm. Central Works opens its season of world premieres with Aaron Henne's Edgar Allen Poe-inspired drama.
Now Circa Then Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org . $19-69. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through April 1. TheatreWorks performs Carly Mensch's comedy about a romance that blooms between two historical re-enactors.
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.
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: Sun/18, March 25, and April 1, 11am. Also May 5-27 (Sat-Sun, 11am); June 3-July 15 (Sun, 11am). Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl returns with this kid-friendly, bubble-tastic comedy.
"Arthur in Underland" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org . 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.
"The Big Blow" Ebenezer/Herchurch Lutheran, 678 Portola, SF; www.sflgfb.org . Fri/16, 8pm. Free. In honor of the blustery month of March, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band performs powerful songs arranged for wind ensembles.
Chitresh Das Dance Company Samsun Hall, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF; www.kathak.org . Thurs/15-Fri/16, 7pm; Sun/18, 2pm. $35-55. Chitresh Das Dance Company and the Asian Art Museum present Darbar, a new work in conjunction with the exhibition "Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts."
Dance Repertory Fort Mason Center, Cowell Theater, Marina at Buchanan, SF; (415) 225-0934. "Dance Repertory Review," Fri/16, 8pm; "Vision Series Dance Festival," Sat/17, 4pm and Sun/18, 6pm; "Dance Repertory Extravaganza," Sat/17, 8pm. $15-20. A series of showcases highlights emerging artists and college ensembles.
"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.
"Enchantingly Wicked" Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF; www.sfgmc.org . March 20-21, 8pm. $15-75. San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and Stephen Schwartz perform musical theater hits.
"Exit Cuckoo" Women's Building, 3543 18th St, SF; www.exitcuckoo.com . Sat/17, 8pm. $15. Lisa Ramirez performs her play about working as a nanny in New York City.
"Improvised Shakespeare" Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.improv.org . Sat/17 and March 24, 8pm. $20. Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS) presents Improvised Shakespeare, a fine troupe (and a slightly different lineup each night, but on March 10 including Kasey Klemm, Rebecca Stockley, Tim Orr, William Hall, Zoe Galvez, and Regina Saisi) with no idea what full length Shakespeare-ish play they will lay on their eager audience until the latter gift them with a title and a key word or two. The rest is remarkably well-tethered mayhem, as cast spontaneously riffs on the audience cue, the conventions of Elizabethan drama, and its own inventions including the unintentional slip of the tongue, which in this context can prove as productive as anything. March 10 saw the premiere and simultaneous closing of an ephemeral little comedy called Two Crows. The players strutted and fretted (or frolicked, really) an hour or so upon the stage.'Twas an idiotic tale, told by some of the sharpest improvisers around, and signifying nothing, save good times. (Avila)
"ODC Dance/Downtown" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard, SF; www.odcdance.org . March 15-25, programs and showtimes vary. $15-750. ODC/Dance kicks off its 41st annual home season with two programs of new works, plus an opening-night gala.
"Rhythm and Roots" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 6pm. $25-35. San Francisco World Percussion Arts Festival presents this performance of taiko drumming, tabla, dulcimer, Shakuhachi, and dance traditions from Japan, West Africa, and India.