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.
"Bay One Acts Festival" Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma, SF; www.bayoneacts.org . $25-45. Opens Sun/22, 3pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm (also May 5 and 12, 3pm); Sun, 3 and 7pm. Through May 12. Ten bold and adventurous short plays by local playwrights, performed two full programs running in repertory.
Fwd: Life Gone Viral Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $20-50. Opens Thu/19, 8pm. Runs Thu, 8pm (no show April 26); Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm (no show May 6). Through June 10. The internet becomes comic fodder for creator-performers Charlie Varon and Jeri Lynn Cohen, and creator-director David Ford.
A Hot Day in Ephesus Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; email@example.com . $12-15. Opens Fri/20, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm; May 13, 2pm. Through May 19. Actors Ensemble performs the world premiere of a musical based on Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.
Lucky Duck Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org . $17-35. Previews Sat/21, 2pm. Opens Sat/21, 7pm. Runs Thu and Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm (additional performance May 11, 7pm). Through May 13. Berkeley Playhouse performs a musical inspired by the "Ugly Duckling" tale.
Oleanna Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.theatrefirst.com . $15-30. Previews Fri/20, 8pm. Opens Sat/21, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through May 13. TheatreFIRST performs David Mamet's tense two-charater drama.
Act One, Scene Two Phoenix Arts Association Theatre, 414 Mason, Ste 601, SF; www.un-scripted.com . $10-20. Opens Thu/19, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 12. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs the beginning of a new, unfinished play by a local author and creates an ending on the spot once the script runs out.
*The Aliens SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org . $20-70. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 5. On the heels of Aurora Theatre's production of Body Awareness, SF Playhouse introduces local audiences to another of contemporary American playwright Annie Baker's acclaimed plays, in a finely tailored West Coast premiere directed by Lila Neugebauer. The Aliens unfolds in the days just around July 4, at slacker pace, in the backyard of a Vermont café (lovingly realized to palpable perfection by scenic designer Bill English), daily haunt of scruffy, post-Beat dropouts and sometime band mates Jasper (a secretly brooding but determined Peter O'Connor) and KJ (a charmingly ingenuous yet mischievous Haynes Thigpen). New employee and high school student Evan (a winningly eager and reticent Brian Miskell) is at first desperate to get the interlopers out of the "staff only" backyard but is just lonely enough to be seduced into friendship and wary idolatry by the older males. What unfolds is a small, sweet and unexpected tale of connection and influence, amid today's alienated dream-sucking American landscape same as it ever was, if you ask Charles Bukowski or Henry Miller, both points of reference to Jasper and KJ, who borrow Bukowski's poem The Aliens for one of their many band names. An appropriate name for the alienated, sure, but part of the charm of these characters is just how easy they are to recognize, or how much we can recognize ourselves in them. Delusions of grandeur reside in every coffee house across this wistful, restless land. It's not just Jasper and KJ who may be going nowhere. A final gesture to the young and awkward but clearly capable Evan suggests, a little ambiguously to be sure, that there's promise out there yet for some. But more than that: the transaction makes clear by then that there are no fuck-ups, really; not among people with generous and open hearts never mind how fucked up the country at large. (Avila)
Any Given Day Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.magictheatre.org . $20-60. Wed/18-Sat/21, 8pm (also Sat/21, 2:30pm); Sun/22, 2:30pm. Magic Theatre performs Linda McLean's Glasgow-set play about modern, urban life.
*The Caretaker Curran Theater, 445 Geary, SF; www.shnsf.com . $25-175. Wed/18-Sat/21, 8pm (also Wed/18 and Sat/21, 2pm); Sun/22, 2pm. Harold Pinter's 1960 drama gets its first major revival since the death of the playwright in 2008 in this touring English production featuring Jonathan Pryce in the ambiguous title role. Set in a worn and cluttered attic apartment amid a triangular power play between its seemingly nonchalant tenant, Aston (the excellently vacant, vaguely creepy Alan Cox), an older homeless man he's just rescued named Davies (a shifty, richly detailed Pryce), and the tenant's younger brother and landlord Mick (a tightly coiled yet comically skittish Alex Hassell). The story is minimal, the tensions and pivoting interpersonal dynamics all. The spookier aspects of the play are toned down, meanwhile, though not necessarily to bad effect. While the opening scenes are played with somewhat unexpected levity, director Christopher Morahan ensures a subtle shift midway through into a more threatening and serious tone that is perhaps all the more palpable for being less foreseen as Davies, egged on by the hyper Mick's persuasive vision of remaking the dumpy room into an elegant penthouse, makes an ill-considered play for dominance over his seemingly gentle but inscrutable host. (Avila)
*Glengarry Glen Ross Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.brownpapertickets.com . $26-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Extended through April 28. Actors Theatre of San Francisco and director Keith Phillips offer a sharp, spirited production of the 1984 play by David Mamet in which four real estate agents (Mark Bird, Sean Hallinan, John Krause, and Christian Phillips) jockey and scheme for advantage in their Chicago office in a landscape of insecurity and fierce competition symbolized by the selective doling out of the best leads by manager and company man John (Frank Willey). Clients (like the gullible young husband played by Randy Blair), meanwhile, are just witless marks for the machinations of the predatory salesman, no more meaningfully human than the "muppets" targeted by Greg Smith's Goldman Sachs. If the scenic design is a little shabby, the strong cast makes that hardly an impediment to a story that feels especially timely in its sharply etched, not to say angry portrait of the ruthless and corrosive business mentality to which egos, livelihoods, and lives not to mention the culture at large are enthralled. (Avila)
Goodfellas Live Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com . $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through April 26. The Dark Room offers a comedic take on Scorsese's gangsters.
*Hot Greeks Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 5. Cheap thrills don't come much cheaper or more thrilling than at a Thrillpeddlers musical extravaganza, and their newly remounted run of Hot Greeks affords all the glitter-dusted eye-candy and labyrinthian plot points we've come to expect from their gleefully exhibitionist ranks. Structured as loosely as possible on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Greeks appropriately enough follows the trials and tribulations of a college sorority tired of "losing" their boyfriends to the big football match every year (Athens U vs. Sparta Tech). Pledging to withhold sex from the men unless they call off the game results in frustration for all, only partially alleviated by the discovery that sexual needs can be satisfied by "playing the other team," as it were. But like other Cockettes' revivals presented by the Thrillpeddlers, the momentum of the show is carried forward not by the rather thinly-sketched narrative, but by the group song-and-dance numbers, extravagant costuming (and lack thereof), ribald wordplay, and overt gender-fuckery. In addition to many TP regulars, including a hot trio of Greek columns topped with "capital" headdresses who serve as the obligatory chorus (Steven Satyricon, Ste Fishell, Bobby Singer), exciting new additions to the Hypnodrome stage include a bewigged Rik Lopes as stalwart sister Lysistrata, angelically-voiced Maggie Tenenbaum as the not-so-angelic Sodoma, and multi-faceted cabaret talent Tom Orr as heartthrob hunk Pendulum Pulaski. (Gluckstern)
It Is What It Is and The Watchtower Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, SF; www.myadultland.com . $20. Thu/19-Sat/21 and April 27-28, 8pm; April 29, 3pm. Through April 29. Short plays by Diane Karagienakos and Christopher Barranti, presented on the same stage with a brief intermission.
It's All the Rage Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm, Sun, 7pm. Extended through May 27. 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 San Francisco. (Avila)
Maple and Vine American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org . $10-95. Wed/18-Sat/21, 8pm (also Wed/18 and Sat/21, 2pm); Sun/22, 2pm. American Conservatory Theater presents the West Coast premiere of Jordan Harrison's thoughtful, mildly amusing, increasingly cluttered fantasy about an affluent but unsatisfied urban couple Katha (Emily Donahoe) and Ryu (Nelson Lee) who try to restart their lives and relationship by joining a cult-like community devoted to living in 1955 America in perpetuity. Directed swiftly but with a slightly shrill comic tone by Mark Rucker, it's an intriguing premise that tries to be unexpected in its twists around modern modes of alienation and "simpler times." Community leaders (and Katha and Ryu's new best friends) Dean (Jamison Jones) and Ellen (Julia Coffey) make it clear that they choose 1955 because 2012 is too easy, not too complicated: In the 1950s, technology has not yet completely subsumed human action, while the discrete spice of old-fashioned repression compensates for the sorry spectrum of salt and ketchup at the dinner table. When it becomes clear that the casual white superiority of Ryu's new boss at the box factory (Danny Bernardy) masks his despair as a closeted homosexual, intrigue and power plays ensue. But the characters and situations have already started to become less and less credible, even for so whimsical a storyline, and the narrative more heavy-handed too as Katha begins to narrate a series of meaningful dreams conflating the characters and characteristics of their present-past and past-future. (Avila)
Thunder Above, Deeps Below Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . $20-25. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 5. Bindlestiff presents A. Rey Pamatmat's dramatic comedy about three homeless young adults.
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through May 26. 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)
Anatol Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org . $30-55. Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through May 13. Aurora Theatre Company performs a world premiere translation of Arthur Schnitzler's drama about the love life of an Viennese philanderer.
The Coast of Utopia: Voyage Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org . $20-30. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through April 29. Shotgun Players present Tom Stoppard's riff on pre-revolutionary Russia.
Hairspray Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City; www.broadwaybythebay.org . $20-48. Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm (also Sat/21, 2pm); Sun/22, 2pm. Broadway By the Bay opens its 47th season with the John Waters-based, Tony-winning musical.
John Brown's Truth La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; www.brownpapertickets.com . $10-15. Sun, 7:30pm. Through April 29. The story of abolitionist John Brown comes to life via William Crossman's script-libretto, plus dance, spoken word, and a variety of improvised music styles.
*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)
Of Mice and Men TheatreWorks at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org . $19-69. Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through April 29. TheatreWorks performs the Steinbeck classic.
Red Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org . $14.50-83. Tue and Thu-Fri, 8pm (also April 26, 2pm; no show April 27); Wed, 7pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm (also Sat, 8pm; no 8pm show May 12; Sun, 7pm). Extended through May 12. Mark Rothko (David Chandler) isn't the only one painting with a broad brush in this labored and ultimately superficial two-hander by John Logan, enjoying a competent but underwhelming production by outgoing Berkeley Rep associate artistic director Les Waters. Set inside the late-1950s New York studio of the legendary abstract expressionist at the height of his fame, the play introduces a blunt and brash young painter named Ken (John Brummer) as Rothko's new hired hand, less a character than a crude dramatic device, there first as a sounding board for the pompous philosophizing that apparently comprises a good chunk of the artist's process and finally as a kind of mirror held up to the old iconoclast in challenging proximity to a new generation that must ultimately transcend Rothko's canvases in turn. The dialogue holds up signs announcing intellectual and aesthetic depths but these remain surface effects, reflecting only platitudes, while the posturing tends to reduce Rothko to caricature. Much of the self-consciously reluctant filial interaction here smacks of biographical sound bites or heavy-handed underscoring of theme, and tends toward the outright hokey when touching on the credulity-bending subject of Ken's murdered parents with the attendant shades this adds to Rothko's and the play's chosen color palette. (Avila)
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org . $8-50. Extended run: 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.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org . Wed/18-Thu/19, 7:30pm; Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm; Sun/22, 5pm. $30-65. The company performs Scheherazade.
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina and Laguna, SF; www.improv.org . Fri/20, 8pm: "BATS Improv vs. Stanford Improv," $20. Sat/21 and April 28, 8pm: "Improvised Hitchcock," $20. April 27, 8pm: "Theatresports Madness," $20.
"CockTales: Fathers and Sons" McKenna Theater, Creative Arts Bldg, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway, SF; creativearts.sfsu.edu. Fri/20, 7pm. $8-15. Investigations of masculinity via poetry, monologues, music, and more.
"Comedy SuperPAC: Promoting Good Comedy and Great Causes Since 2012!" Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF; www.hemlocktavern.com . Mon, 7pm. Through May 7. $5. Nate Green and W. Kamau Bell present this ongoing comedy showcase; this week's performers are Chris Garcia, Brendan McGowan, Jeff Kreisler, and Brandie Posey.
"CubaCaribe Dance Festival" This week: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.cubacaribe.org . Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm; Sun/22, 3 and 7pm. $10-24. Up first in this two-week festival (this year's theme: "Poder Popular) is a mixed program featuring local artists (Grupo Experimental Nagó, Arenas Dance Company, and more), plus a Sunday matinee with youth performers.
"Dancers' Group presents 2012 Bay Area Dance Week" Various locations; www.bayareadance.org . April 20, 29. Free. Over 600 free dance events at locations throughout San Francisco, the East Bay, and beyond.
"Elect to Laugh" Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org . Tue, 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 Great Flood" Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF; www.sfjazz.org . Sat/21, 8pm, $25-65. Guitarist Bill Frisell's multimedia investigation into the 1927 Mississippi River flood.
"Gutterbunny in Chinatown" Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; (415) 401-7987. Mon/23-Tues/24, 7 and 8pm. $10. Spy Emerson's performance series is described as "theater of the absurdist vaudevillian furry-fetishists."
"Ironic/Not Ironic" Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; (415) 401-7987. Sat/21, 10pm, $15. Comedian Harmon Leon performs.
Labayan Dance/SF ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org . Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm; Sun/22, 3pm. $25. The company performs its spring 2012 season, including the premieres of Kulang and Dasal and Rice Blues.
"Natya and Narration Rebelution" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org . Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm; Sun/22, 3pm. $20. Collaborative presentation of short stories, personal essays, and poems through narrative expression and dance.
"Qcomedy Showcase" Stage Werx, 446 Valencia, SF; www.qcomedy.com . Mon/23, 8pm. $8-20. With headliner Cookie Dough.
"RAWDance presents the Concept Series: 11" 66 Sanchez Studio, 66 Sanchez, SF; www.rawdance.org . Sat/21-Sun/22, 8pm (also Sun/22, 3pm). Pay what you can. RAWdance hosts EmSpace Dance, Christy Funsch, and other artists at this informal, intimate contemporary-dance salon.
"Round One Cabaret" Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; www.thealcovetheater.com . Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm; Sun/22, 4pm. $30. Not Quite Opera Productions presents this shocase of new musical-theater songs by Bay Area composers.
"The Standard Bearer" Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com . Fri/2-Sat/21, 8pm. $25. Julian Sands directs Neil Dickson in this limited run of Stephen Wyatt's play about a Shakespearean actor traveling through Africa.
"Subvert" Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.eventbrite.com . Fri/20, 8pm. $15-25. Comedian Heather Gold performs.
"Tease-O-Rama" Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF; www.teaseorama.com . Fri/20-Sat/21, 8pm. $40-150. Main showcase event in a weekend of burlesque-themed performances, classes, and more.