Exit, Pursued By a Bear Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.crowdedfire.org. $10-35. Previews Thurs/18-Fri/19, 8pm. Opens Sat/20, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat (Aug 24-27 and Sept 7-17), 8pm. Through Sept 17. Crowded Fire performs Lauren Gunderson's new play, a feminist revenge comedy.
Waiting for Giovanni Decker Theater, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-36. Previews Fri/19-Sat/20 and Aug 24-26, 8pm; Sun/21, 2pm. Opens Aug 27, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 18. This world-premiere play by Jewelle Gomez in collaboration with Harry Waters Jr. imagines a split-second of indecision in the mind of author James Baldwin.
Toke Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25. Opens Thurs/18, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Sept 11. Swirl Media presents Deedee Kirkwood's pot-fueled comedy.
Act One, Scene Two SF Playhouse, Stage Two, 533 Sutter, SF; (415) 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thurs/18-Sat/20, 8pm. Un-Scripted Theater Company hosts a different playwright each night, performing the first scene of an unfinished play and then improvising its finish.
"AfroSolo Arts Festival" Various venues, SF; www.afrosolo.org. Free-$100. Through Oct 20. The AfroSolo Theatre Company presents its 18th annual festival celebrating African American artists, musicians, and performers.
American Buffalo Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; (415) 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 3. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs the David Mamet crime classic.
Bedtime in Detroit Boxcar Theatre Studios, 125A Hyde, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $15. Thurs/18-Sat/20, 8pm; Sun/21, 4pm. Boxcar Theatre's first-ever Directing Lab Performance is of Ellen K. Anderson's drama, set in Detroit on Devil's Night.
Billy Elliot Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market, SF; www.shnsf.com/shows/billyelliot. $35-200. Wed/17-Sat/20, 8pm (also Sat/20, 2pm); Sun/21, 2 and 7:30pm. As a Broadway musical, Billy Elliot proves more enjoyable than the film. The movie's T. Rex score may have been a major selling point, but it was a bit maudlin for a story that needed no help in that department. The musical naturally has a sentimental moment or three, but it's much more often funny, muscular in its staging (with repeatedly inspired choreography from Peter Darling), and expansive in its eclectic score (Elton John) and well-wrought book and lyrics (Lee Hall). Moreover, Stephen Daldry (who also directed the 2000 film) plays up bracingly the too-timely class politics of the modest 1980s English mining town besieged by Margaret Thatcher's neoliberal regime in the latter's ultimately successful bid to crush the once-powerful miners union. The cast is likewise very strong. The second act is not as strong as the first, but as crowd-pleasing entertainment the musical burrows deep and more often than not comes up with gold. (Avila)
The Book of Liz Custom Made Theatre, 1620 Gough, SF; www.custommade.org. $25-32. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Aug 28. Custom Made Theatre performs David and Amy Sedaris' comedy about an unconventional nun.
Gilligan's Island: Live On Stage! 2011 Garage, 975 Howard, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-20. Sat-Sun, 8pm. Through Aug 28. Moore Theatre and SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts presents this updated, ribald take on TV's classic castaways.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Steve Silver Theater, 1101 Eucalyptus (on the Lowell High School campus), SF; www.bathwater.org. $20. Thurs/18-Sat/20, 7:30pm. Bathwater Productions performs an acrobatic version of the Shakespeare classic.
A Midsummer's Night Dream This week: McLaren Park, Mansell St, SF; www.womanswill.org. Free (donations requested). Sat/20-Sun/21, 2pm. Performances continue at Bay Area parks through Aug 28. Woman's Will performs the Shakespeare favorite.
The Nature Line Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, SF; www.sleepwalkerstheatre.com. $17-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 27. With The Nature Line, Sleepwalkers Theatre concludes playwright J.C. Lee's ambitious apocalypse trilogy, "This World and After." Now well into the post-apocalyptic age, Aya (Charisse Loriaux) buries her miscarriages in the hardscrabble earth, tended by a blind one-breasted s/he named T (Amy Prosser) who plants a would-be garden and collects tattered love letters from a past when people could still physically — and emotionally — touch one another. All that's been banished now, Aya's friend Arty (Ariane Owens) tells us, along with the onetime plague of "sadness." The few humans remaining huddle in the antiseptic arms of a corporate entity represented by a bossy nurse (Janna Kefalas) and her spacey assistant (Lissa Keigwin), who manage an artificial insemination clinic fueled by a stable of four comic-book–reared studs, or "dudes" in the argot of the future (a sensitive crooner smitten with Aya, played by Joshua Schell, and a boisterously adolescent fantastic three played by the roundly hilarious Roy Landaverde, Jeff Moran, and Jomar Tagatac). This all takes place at the edge of a vast, reportedly menacing frontier. Lured by an enchanting dream, and urged by T, Aya crosses over into this forbidding land, followed willy-nilly by everyone else, only to find another Eden of sorts, inhabited by the, at first, unrecognized figures of Aya's lost and future familia (Soraya Gillis and Carla Pantoja) — a poignant moment comes in a bilingual reunion that magically erases barriers of language and time. Indeed, if Lee's title suggests "line" as both lineage and division, the play recovers a timeless order by challenging the artificial lines between persons; people and "nature"; past, present, and future; or dream and reality. Director Mina Morita's staging is fleet and at times poetic, while she gets generally solid performances from her cast (the more comical parts working best). Imaginative, just a little risqué, and reminiscent in its heightened vernacular, low humor, and romantic optimism of word-struck apocalypto-dramas like Liz Duffy Adams' Dog Act, Nature is a well-constructed narrative with a theme and dialogue that can feel alternately eloquent and heavy-handed. That said, its final image remains an apt conclusion for the trilogy as a whole, amid another Eden where the first kiss, and first heartbreak, starts the beating all over again. (Avila)
Peaches en Regalia Stage Werx, 533 Sutter, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $12-24. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 27. The new comedy by Bay Area playwright Steve Lyons borrows its title from a Frank Zappa instrumental and stamps it on the menu of a local diner (tangibly evoked in Wes Cayabyab and Quinn J. Whitaker's spiffy set design), where new employee and recent college graduate Peaches (an endearingly offbeat Sarah Moser) revels in her impulse decision to leave a job at an investment bank to work at a place with such an auspicious side dish. We meet Peaches, as well as best friend Joanne (Nicole Hammersla), nebbish customer Norman (Philip Goleman), and confident guy's guy Syd (Cooper Carlson), through a set of discrete monologues, each illustrated with mute help from the other characters. Philosophies of life and hidden desires are all on display but the plot is a prix fixe menu of romance, marriage, and parenthood as deliberate encounters lead to unexpected matches. Sharp performances crisply directed by Sara Staley add zest to otherwise average comic fare, but the writing has several inspired flights of zaniness too. Questionable whether the second act's course is warranted, however, since it's plot to pull into parenthood a reluctant Norman — for whom the pace of events collapses nine months and more into a dizzying time warp — is a bit too I Love Lucy to concentrate on without itching to change the channel. (Avila)
Tigers Be Still SF Playhouse, 522 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-50. Tues-Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through Sept 10. SF Playhouse performs Kim Rosenstock's quirky comedy.
True West NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa, SF; 1-800-838-3006, www.truewestsf.com. $10-28. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 17. Expression Productions presents Sam Shepard's tale of two brothers.
2012: The Musical! This week: Washington Square Park, Columbus at Union, SF; www.sfmt.org. Free. Sat/20, 2pm. Also Sun/21, 2pm, Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission at Third St, SF. Continues through Sept 25 at various Bay Area venues. San Francisco Mime Troupe mounts their annual summer musical; this year's show is about a political theater company torn between selling out and staying true to its anti-corporate roots.
What Mamma Said About Down There SF Downtown Comedy Theater, 287 Ellis, SF; www.sfdowntowncomedytheater.com. $15. Thurs/18-Sat/20, 8pm. Sia Amma returns with her solo comedy.
Candida Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theatre Way, Orinda; www.calshakes.org. $35-66. Tues-Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sept 3, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through Sept 4. Cal Shakes artistic director helms this taken on George Bernard Shaw's classic about a housewife torn between her husband and a new suitor.
Communicating Doors Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8pm. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs Alan Ayckbourn's "time-travel-battle-of-the-sexes comedy."
The Complete History of America (abridged) Dominican University of California, Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 1475 Grand, San Rafael; (415) 499-4488, www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-35. Performance times vary; check website for schedule. Through Sept. 25. Marin Shakespeare Company performs Adam Lon, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor's three-person romp through American history.
Madhouse Rhythm Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Thurs, 7:30pm. Through Aug 25. Joshua Walters performs his hip-hop-infused autobiographical show about his experiences with bipolar disorder.
Not a Genuine Black Man Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; 1-800-838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 5pm (also Sept 8 and 22, 7:30pm). Through Sept 24. This is it: the final extension of Brian Copeland's solo show about growing up in (nearly) all-white San Leandro.
Reduction in Force Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 558-1381, www.centralworks.org. $14-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/20 and Aug 27, 5pm); Sun, 5pm. Through Aug 28. Central Works performs "an economic comedy about back-stabbing, ass-kissing, and survival of the sneakiest."
The Road to Hades John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $10 (suggested donation; no one turned away for lack of funds). Sat-Sun, 3pm. Through Sept 11. Shotgun Players presents a new comedy written by and starring veteran comedian and clown Jeff Raz.
Seven Guitars Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatre.org. $34-55. Tues and Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Aug 25, 1pm; Sat/20 and Sept 3, 2pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Sept 4. Marin Theatre Company performs August Wilson's 1940s-set entry into his series of plays about the African-American experience.
Strange Travel Suggestions Cabaret at Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through Aug 27. Jeff Greenwald returns with a new version of his hit show of improvised monologues about travel.
"2011 New Works Festival" TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1355 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-29. Schedule varies. Through Sun/21. TheatreWorks presents its annual festival of new musicals and plays, performed in workshop or staged-reading form, plus a panel discussion.
"Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera Installation" Novellus Theater, 700 Howard, SF; (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org. Previews Thurs, 7:30pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $10-85. SFMOMA and YBCA present this new production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's opera.
"Free Preview of SF Fringe Festival" Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sat, 8pm. Free. Check out excerpts from Fringe-bound works by local companies.
"Help is on the Way XVII: Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!" Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF; www.helpisontheway.org. Sun, 7:30pm. $50-125. Performers including Lea Salonga, Shirley Jones, Kim Nalley, Paula West, and more join forces to raise money for local AIDS service organizations, presented by the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.
"House Special" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org. Sat, 8pm. $15-18. Julie Caffey, Christine Bonasea, and Raisa Punkii present works-in-progress as part of ODC's summer shared-residency program.
"A Mix Tape for Ophelia" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm. $20. CounterPULSE and Collage Theater present this multimedia exploration of adolescence through a Shakespearian, queer lens.
"SF Live!" 50 Mason Social House, 50 Mason, SF; www.50masonsocialhouse.com. Mon, 9:30pm. Free. Ongoing. Comedy and music showcase.
"2011 Bay Area Rhythm Exchange" Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF; (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com. Fri-Sat, 8pm. $17-25. Stepology presents this tap dance festival, featuring Melinda Sullivan, Channing Cook Holmes, the Barbary Coast Cloggers, and more.
"The Wounded Stag" Marsh, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. Tues, 7:30pm, $10. Musical performance and monologues with multi-instrumentalist Andrew Goldfarb (a.k.a. the Slow Poisoner) and absurdist performance artist Dan Carbone.
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. For complete listings, see www.sfbg.com.
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