Curtain calls

Fall Arts Preview: Theater gets political, playful, potent
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The Best Man
Photo by David Allen

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Fall arts resolution No. 1: have no faith in leaders. Obummer and McPain will only disappoint, or worse. (Probably worse.) If faith you must ooze, kindly direct it toward people who really care about you and have your interests at heart. Why did Gore Vidal write his play The Best Man (1960), for instance? Most likely it wasn't to get elected (though he did try). And Frank Wedekind was even less enamored of the powers that be when he penned his way-pre-punk "tragedy of childhood," Spring Awakening, a late 19th-century cri de coeur against authority whose transition to Broadway and electric guitars has both an aptness and an irony going for it that might have amused old FW. As Tom Stoppard confirms, power is a compromised and compromising affair whatever side of history you happen to be on, but rock 'n' roll will save your soul. So will Teddy Pendergrass, for that matter, as soul-survivor and kinetic Philly memoirist Colman Domingo brilliantly attests. So this fall, remember who your real friends are. You can direct any remaining or follow-up questions to author-playwright Kobo Abe, as well as the other miscellaneous sage nonconformists referenced in the list below.

The Best Man A Broadway hit for Gore Vidal, this political comedy-drama remains fresh as a daisy, if such a sweet olfactory simile can apply to the mosh pit of electoral politics.

Now playing through Sept. 28. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk. (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org

San Francisco Fringe Festival The mighty Exit Theatre turned 25 this year. The SF Fringe Festival, the annual small-theater smorgasbord the Exit serves up each fall, turns a sexy 17. Judging by this year's lineup, that means stripped-down, butt-plugged, bare-bones, rock-hard, strap-on sexy.

Sept. 3–14. Various venues, including the Exit Theatres, 156 Eddy, SF. www.sffringe.org

A Boy and His Soul (Thick House) and A Bronx Tale (Golden Gate Theatre) If only it were a double bill. These two solo plays about growing up (in Philadelphia and the titular Bronx) take place on radically different Bay Area stages, and deal with radically different stages in the lives of what you might call radically different actors (Coleman Domingo and Chazz Palminteri, respectively). Both are masterful, and as long as you're at it, throw in Carlo D'Amore's own deft and hilarious family-centered solo, No Parole, coming to the Marsh in November (www.themarsh.org).

Sept. 3–14. Thick House, 1695 18th St., SF. www.thickhouse.org

Sept. 23–Oct. 19. Golden Gate Theatre, One Taylor, SF. www.shnsf.com

Spring Awakening Best of Broadway brings to town this rock musical makeover of Wedekind's great drama.

Sept. 4–Oct. 12. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary, SF. www.shnsf.com

Rock 'N' Roll Here comes Tom Stoppard's character-concentrated take on Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution, as well as on leftist politics across several decades of Cold War history. It's a good play to argue about afterward, in your highest pinko dudgeon, over pinot and tartare de boeuf at the Grand Cafe.

Sept. 11–Oct. 12. American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary, SF. (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org

HyperReal Bay Area performance artist Sara Kraft's low-key brilliance by now merits a neologism: krafty (with a k!). Krafty = shrewd, inventive, technically savvy, wry, playful, tuneful, eerie, unsettling, and, generally speaking, not to be missed.

Oct. 10–12. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF.

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