Theater Listings: August 14 - 20, 2013
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.
In Friendship: Stories By Zona Gale Z Below, 470 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. $20-50. Previews Wed/14-Thu/15, 7pm; Fri/16, 8pm. Opens Sat/17, 8pm. Runs Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Sept 8. Word for Word performs Zona Gale's "comedy of American manners."
All's Well That Ends Well Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Previews Fri/16, 8pm. Opens Aug 24, 8pm. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Sept 28; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company continues its outdoor season with the Bard's classic romance.
Lady Windermere's Fan Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda; www.calshakes.org. $35-62. Previews Wed/14-Fri/16, 8pm. Opens Sat/17, 8pm. Runs Tue-Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sept 7, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through Sept 8. California Shakespeare Theater performs Oscar Wilde's comedy.
Orlando Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.theatrefirst.com. $10-30. Previews Thu/15, 8pm. Opens Fri/16, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Sept 15. TheatreFIRST performs Sarah Ruhl's gender-shifting comedy, which takes place over a span of 300 years.
Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Aug 25. Don Reed's new show offers more stories from his colorful upbringing in East Oakland in the 1960s and '70s. More hilarious and heartfelt depictions of his exceptional parents, independent siblings, and his mostly African American but ethnically mixed working-class community — punctuated with period pop, Motown, and funk classics, to which Reed shimmies and spins with effortless grace. And of course there's more too of the expert physical comedy and charm that made long-running hits of Reed's last two solo shows, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel (both launched, like this newest, at the Marsh). Can You Dig It? reaches, for the most part, into the "early" early years, Reed's grammar-school days, before the events depicted in East 14th or Kipling Hotel came to pass. But in nearly two hours of material, not all of it of equal value or impact, there's inevitably some overlap and indeed some recycling. Reed, who also directs the show, may start whittling it down as the run continues. But, as is, there are at least 20 unnecessary minutes diluting the overall impact of the piece, which is thin on plot already — much more a series of often very enjoyable vignettes and some painful but largely unexplored observations, wrapped up at the end in a sentimental moral that, while sincere, feels rushed and inadequate. (Avila)
Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow's musical comedy revue all about food.
God of Carnage Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.com. $26-38. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 7. Shelton Theater performs Yasmina Reza's award-winning play about class and parenting.
Gold Rush! The Un-Scripted Barbary Coast Musical Un-Scripted Theater Company, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. The Un-Scripted Theater Company performs an improvised musical about gold-rush era San Francisco.
Gorgeous Hussy: An Interview With Joan Crawford Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $15-35. Thu/15-Fri/16, 8pm. Running in repertory with Lawfully Wedded (below), this world premiere by Morgan Ludlow imagines a young writer's encounter with the legendary movie star.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $27-43. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. John Cameron Mitchell's cult musical comes to life with director Nick A. Olivero's ever-rotating cast.
How to Make Your Bitterness Work for You Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.stagewerx.org. $15-25. Mon-Tue, 8pm. Through Aug 27. Kent Underwood is a motivational speaker and self-help expert with some obvious baggage of his own in this solo play from former comedy writer and stand-up comedian Fred Raker (It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life). The premise, similar to that of Kurt Bodden's Steve Seabrook: Better Than You (ongoing at the Marsh), has the audience overlapping with participants in an Underwood seminar. Underwood, however, two years on the seminar circuit and still unable to get his book published, deviates from the script to answer texts related to a possible career breakthrough. Meanwhile, with the aid of some bullet points and illustrative slides, he explains the premise of said manuscript, "How to Make Your Bitterness Work For You," as the sad truth of his own underdog status emerges between the laugh lines. But where Bodden is careful to make his Seabrook a somewhat believable character despite the absurdity of it all (or rather, while firmly embracing the absurdity of the self-help industry itself), Raker and director Kimberly Richards put much more space between the playwright/performer and his character, which turns out to be a less effective strategy. Verisimilitude might not have mattered much if the comic material were stronger. Unfortunately, despite the occasional zinger, much of the humor is weak or corny and the narrative (interrupted at regular intervals by an artificial tone representing the arrival of a fresh text message) too contrived to sell us on the larger story. (Avila)
Keith Moon: The Real Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $40. Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 7pm. Was Keith Moon the greatest rock 'n' roll drummer ever? Veteran solo performer and drum stylist Mick Berry doesn't exactly come out and say so, but his biographical play about Moon definitely makes a good case for the possibility. Keith Moon: The Real Me, written and performed by Berry, kicks off with a literal bang, a hi-octane cover of "Baba O'Riley," featuring Berry's exuberantly crashing cymbals layered over the iconic, rapid-fire synth riff that runs throughout the song. Though the characters of the play are all portrayed by Berry — with references to all the requisite sex, drugs, and self-destruction thrown into the mix — a full band stands at the ready behind two transparent screens to flesh out the show's strongest element: the rock-and-roll. In order to channel Moon's full-throttle drumming, Berry enlisted the assistance of Frank Simes, the music director of the Who's 2012-2013 tour, while to channel Moon's freewheeling but insecure personality, he enlisted local director Bobby Weinapple. The script itself is still ragged, and a couple of key moments, particularly when Moon's car is attacked in early 1970, are presented in such a way that the context comes later, which is confusing if you don't already know the history of the incident. But if you don't mind a bit of chat with your rock concert, you'll probably find this fusion of the two intriguing. Just remember, when the nice concessions people offer you complimentary earplugs, take them. (Gluckstern)
Lawfully Wedded: Plays About Marriage Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $15-35. Sat/17, 8pm. Running in repertory with Gorgeous Hussy (above), this world premiere "collage of scenes and stories" by Morgan Ludlow, Kirk Shimano, and Alina Trowbridge takes on marriage equality.
Marius Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; www.generationtheatre.com. $20-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Aug 25. GenerationTheatre performs R. David Valayre's new English translation of Marcel Pagnol's classic about a man who dreams of traveling the seas.
Sex and the City: LIVE! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; trannyshack.com/sexandthecity. $25. Wed, 7 and 9pm. Open-ended. It seems a no-brainer. Not just the HBO series itself — that's definitely missing some gray matter — but putting it onstage as a drag show. Mais naturellement! Why was Sex and the City not conceived of as a drag show in the first place? Making the sordid not exactly palatable but somehow, I don't know, friendlier (and the canned a little cannier), Velvet Rage Productions mounts two verbatim episodes from the widely adored cable show, with Trannyshack's Heklina in a smashing portrayal of SJP's Carrie; D'Arcy Drollinger stealing much of the show as ever-randy Samantha (already more or less a gay man trapped in a woman's body); Lady Bear as an endearingly out-to-lunch Miranda; and ever assured, quick-witted Trixxie Carr as pent-up Charlotte. There's also a solid and enjoyable supporting cast courtesy of Cookie Dough, Jordan Wheeler, and Leigh Crow (as Mr. Big). That's some heavyweight talent trodding the straining boards of bar Rebel's tiny stage. The show's still two-dimensional, even in 3D, but noticeably bigger than your 50" plasma flat panel. Update: new episodes began May 15. (Avila)
So You Can Hear Me Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through Aug 24. A 23-year-old with no experience, just high spirits and big ideals, gets a job in the South Bronx teaching special ed classes and quickly finds herself in over her head. Safiya Martinez, herself a bright young woman from the projects, delivers this inspired accounting of her time not long ago in perhaps the most neglected sector of the public school system — a 60-minute solo play that makes up for its slim plot with a set of deft, powerful, lovingly crafted characterizations. These complex portraits, alternately hysterical and startling, offer their own moving ruminations on a violent but also vibrant stratum of American society, deeply fractured by pervasive poverty and injustice and yet full of restive young personalities too easily dismissed, ignored, or crudely caricatured elsewhere. An effervescent, big-hearted, and very talented performer, Martinez boasts a bounding personality and contagious passion for her former students (as complicated as that relationship was), and makes this deeply felt tribute all the more memorable. (Avila)
Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through Aug 24. Self-awareness, self-actualization, self-aggrandizement — for these things we turn to the professionals: the self-empowerment coaches, the self-help authors and motivational speakers. What's the good of having a "self" unless someone shows you how to use it? Writer-performer Kurt Bodden's Steve Seabrook wants to sell you on a better you, but his "Better Than You" weekend seminar (and tie-in book series, assorted CDs, and other paraphernalia) belies a certain divided loyalty in its own self-flattering title. The bitter fruit of the personal growth industry may sound overly ripe for the picking, but Bodden's deftly executed "seminar" and its behind-the-scenes reveals, directed by Mark Kenward, explore the terrain with panache, cool wit, and shrewd characterization. As both writer and performer, Bodden keeps his Steve Seabrook just this side of overly sensational or maudlin, a believable figure, finally, whose all-too-ordinary life ends up something of a modest model of its own. (Avila)
Stories High XII: The Soma Edition Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.bindlestiffstudio.org. $10-20. Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm. Four mini-plays about "living, working, playing, and struggling" in SoMa, written by Dianne Aquino Chui, Paolo Salazar, Cristal Fiel, and Conrad Panganiban.
Sweet Bird of Youth Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.tidestheatre.org. $20-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. Tides Theatre performs Tennessee Williams' Gulf Coast-set drama about an improbable couple.
A Comedy of Errors Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Sept 29; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company presents a cowboy-themed spin on the Bard's classic.
No Man's Land Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $35-135. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Thu and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Aug 29); Wed, 7pm (also Aug 28, 2pm); Sun/18 and Aug 25, 2pm. Through Aug 31. Acting legends and erstwhile X-Men Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen star in this pre-Broadway engagement of Harold Pinter's play.
Oil and Water This week: San Lorenzo Park, Dakota at Ocean, Santa Cruz; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Sat/17-Sun/18, 3pm (music at 2:30pm). Through Sept 2 at NorCal parks. It's a rough year for mimes, or at any rate for the San Francisco Mime Troupe who, after presenting 53 seasons of free theater in the parks of San Francisco (and elsewhere), faced a financial crisis in April that threatened to shut down this season before it even started. The resultant show, funded by an influx of last-minute donations, is one cut considerably closer to the bone than in previous years. With a cast of just four actors and two musicians, plus a stage considerably less ornate then usual, even the play has shrunk in scale, from one two-hour musical to two loosely-connected one-acts riffing on general environmentalist themes. In Deal With the Devil, a surprisingly sympathetic (not to mention downright hawt) Devil (Velina Brown) shows up to help an uncertain president (Rotimi Agbabiaka) regain his conscience and win back his soul, while in Crude Intentions adorable, progressive, same-sex couple Gracie (Velina Brown) and Tomasa (Lisa Hori-Garcia) wind up catering a "benefit" shindig for the Keystone XL Pipeline giving them the opportunity to perpetrate a little guerrilla direct action on a bombastic David Koch (Hugo E Carbajal) with a "mole de petróleo" and a smartphone. Throughout, the performers remain upbeat if somewhat over-extended as they sing, dance, and slapstick their way to the sobering conclusion that the time to turn things around in the battles over global environmental protection is now — or never. (Gluckstern)
Sea of Reeds Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Wed/14-Thu/15, 7pm; Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 5pm. The stage comes unusually populated in this latest from well-known Bay Area monologist and red-diaper baby Josh Kornbluth: a four-piece musical ensemble (El Beh, Jonathan Kepke, Olive Mitra, and Eli Wirtschafter) sits stage right, a standing table with some reed-making equipment appears stage left. Front and center is Kornbluth and his oboe, before him a music stand and behind him three "reeds"—freestanding concave walls of a bamboo-hue (designed by Nina Ball). But there's more: Kornbluth's physical trainer (Beth Wilmurt), bounding up from her seat in the first row to lend Kornbluth support or, more productively, prod him in the right direction as he takes the long road home to setting up a promised recital of Bach's Cantata No. 82. That set up hinges on his recent bar mitzvah, at 52, in Israel, and its unexpected connections between his life-long oboe playing, his Communist upbringing in New York, his mixed marriage, his conversations with a local rabbi, and the Book of Exodus (specifically, Moses's trail-blazing for the Israelites across the Red Sea, a.k.a., the Sea of Reeds). Although the introduction of supporting characters, musicians, and a musical score (by Marco D'Ambrosio) breaks new ground for the longtime soloist, Sea of Reeds is classic — indeed classical (thanks to a final few tenuous bars from the promised Bach cantata) — Kornbluth. Directed by longtime creative partner David Dower, the show features the boyish comedic persona, the intricate storytelling, and the biographical referents that have given him a loyal following over the years. Diehard fans aside, the show's cheesy, somewhat self-regarding conceit of staging "spontaneous" interactions between Kornbluth and his trainer may not work with everyone. Perhaps more challenging, though, is the persistence of a less than fully examined disjunction between the political values of his parents and his own political and ethical evolution — a disjunction highlighted here in the narrative's fraught Middle Eastern setting and its vague navigation between the violence of religious zealotry and a plea for tolerance. (Avila)
The Wiz Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. Wed-Thu and Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Aug 25. The first time I saw the movie version of The Wiz with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne (among others) it pretty much blew my young, Wizard of Oz-loving mind, swapping funky R&B for syrupy ballads, sophisticated silver pumps in place of the familiar sequined red ones, and mean city streets and subways in place of the more bucolic surroundings of the 1939 Victor Fleming film. Unfortunately, from a certain perspective, the 1970s feel just about as dated today as the 1930s, and consequently The Wiz doesn't seem quite as innovative as it once did. And while there are some nods to the political climate of today made by the creative team behind the Berkeley Playhouse's production (such as a pair of almost randomly-wielded rainbow flags, and a handful of t-shirts printed with peace-and-love messages), they mostly steer clear of making any kind of overt statements, even in regards to the all black casting (now thoroughly integrated). Similarly, many of the trappings of the "seventies" have also been axed in favor of more fanciful, almost cartoonish, costuming and choreography. It's long for a children's musical, clocking in at around two-and-a-half hours, but that seems no deterrent to the plucky Wiz Kidz youth ensemble who tread the floorboards as a pack of munchkins, a band of sweatshop laborers, and a groovy bunch of glammed-up citizens of the Emerald City. Grown-up voices of special note belong to Taylor Jones as Dorothy, Nicole Julien as Aunt Em/Glinda, Amy Lizardo as Addaperle, Reggie D. White as Tin Man, and Sarah Mitchell as Evillene. (Gluckstern)
"Amplitude II" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. Fri/16, 7-9pm. Free with gallery admission ($8-10). Novelist Laleh Khadivi, scholar Paula Moya, and others lead this event in which audience members are invited to read excerpts from novels recommended by participating artists. There will also be an expanded cinema performance by Michelle Dizon (2012's Perpetual Peace).
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason, SF; www.improv.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 31. $20. The company's 19th annual Summer Improv Festival continues with "Spontaneous Broadway" (Fri/16); "SF vs. LA Theatresports" (Sat/17); "Duoprov Championship" (Aug 23-24); and "Choose Your Own Adventure" (Aug 30-31).
Kurt Braunohler Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF; kurttub.eventbrite.com. Fri/16, 8pm. $18. The comedian release his new album, How Do I Land?, with fellow performers Laura Kightlinger, the Business, and a special musical guest.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sat/17 and Aug 25, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
"Help Is On the Way 19" Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.helpisontheway.org. Sun/18, 7:30pm (silent auction and VIP party, 5pm; pre-show gala reception, 6-7:30pm; post-show party, 10-11:45pm). $65-125. Alex Newell (Glee) and Judy Garland impersonator Jim Bailey headline this benefit for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.
"Iolanthe" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Lam Research Theater, 700 Howard, SF; www.ybca.org. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm); Sun/18, 2pm. $15-59. Lamplighters Music Theatre performs Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical comedy.
"Merola Grand Finale" War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF; www.merola.org. Sat/17, 7:30pm. $25-45. Future opera headliners perform.
"Mission Position Live" Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.
"Okeanos Intimate" Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, SF; www.capacitor.org. Sat, 7pm. Through Sept 28. $20-30 (free aquarium ticket with show ticket). Dance-circus company Capacitor presents a family-friendly series of performances inspired by the ocean. Each show features a pre-performance talk by a marine biologist or oceanographer.
"Performing Diaspora Festival" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thu-Sun, 8pm. Through Aug 25. $20-30 sliding scale. This week: Byb Chanel Bibene, Joti Singh, and Jia Wu; next week: Jewlia Eisenberg, Muisi-kongo Malongo, and Nadhi Thekkek.
"RAWdance presents the Concept Series: 14" 66 Sanchez Studio, 66 Sanchez, SF; www.rawdance.org. Sat/17-Sun/18, 8pm (also Sun/18, 3pm). Pay what you can. Intimate salon of contemporary dance with Nina Haft and Company, Stranger Lover Dreamer, Post: Ballet, the Anata Project, Fog Beast, and RAWdance. Plus popcorn!
"San Francisco Drag King Contest" Space 550, 550 Barneveld, SF; www.sfdragkingcontest.com. Sat/17, 10pm. $15-35. The 18th rendition of this popular contest, hosted by Sister Roma and Fudgie Frottage, benefits Pets Are Wonderful Support; a dance party with guest DJs follows.
"San Francisco Magic Parlor" Chancellor Hotel Union Square, 433 Powell, SF; www.sfmagicparlor.com. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. $40. Magic vignettes with conjurer and storyteller Walt Anthony.
San Francisco Opera Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Ave at Sloat, SF; www.sterngrove.org. Sun/18, 2pm. Free. As part of the Stern Grove Festival, SF Opera performs an outdoor concert featuring the works of Verdi, Wagner, and Benjamin Britten.
"San Francisco Son Jarocho Festival" Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission at Third, SF; www.brava.org. Thu/15, 12:30-1:30pm, free. Son de Madera performs. Additional events at Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brava.org. Thu/15, 7pm: screening of documentary Soneros del Tesechoacan ($5); Fri/16, 8pm: Los Soneros del Tesechoacan perform with Cambalache ($18-35); Sat/17, 8pm: Son de Madera play a concert with Dia Pa' Son ($18-35); and Sun/18, times and prices vary: workshops, master classes, and more.
"SPF6" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odcdance.org. Wed/14-Sun/18, 7pm (also Wed/14-Sat/17, 9pm; Sat/17-Sun/18, 4pm; Sun/18, 2pm). $10-20. SAFEhouse, which fosters new performing artists through residencies and other programs, presents its sixth annual Summer Performance Festival.
"Union Square Live" Union Square, between Post, Geary, Powell, and Stockton, SF; www.unionsquarelive.org. Through Oct 9. Free. Music, dance, circus arts, film, and more; dates and times vary, so check website for the latest.
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival Mission at Third St, SF; www.ybgf.org. Free. This week: "Brazil in the Gardens" (Sat/18, 1-2:30pm); "Poetry Tuesday at Jessie Square" (Tue/20, 12:30-1:30pm).
"My Own Fairytale" Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. $15-30. Leslie Noel presents a workshop performance of her new musical about heartbreak, love, and betrayal.
"Legally Blonde: The Musical" Valley Center for the Arts, Regent's Theater, Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd, Oakl; www.stagedoorconservatory.org. Fri/16-Sat/17, 7:30pm; Sun/18, 2pm. $15-35. Stage Door Conservatory performs the musical based on the Reese Witherspoon comedy.
"The Peace Project; Shaking & Shocking" Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl; www.dnaga.org. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 5pm. $15-20. dNaga in partnership with PDActive and Danspace presents Claudine Naganuma's work about the ways in which patients manage Parkinson's Disease.
"TheatreWorks New Works Festival" Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; www.theatreworks.org. Wed-Sun, showtimes vary. $19 (festival pass, $65). TheatreWorks performs its 12th annual fest, with a line-up that includes a new comedy from Pulitzer winner Beth Henley. *