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 email@example.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.
History: The Musical Un-Scripted Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Opens Thu/15, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm (no show Nov 22). Through Dec 22. The Un-Scripted Theater Company performs "an unscripted romp through Western history."
Carmelina Eureka Theatre, 215 Geary, SF; www.42ndstmoon.org. $25-75. Wed/14, 7pm; Thu/15-Fri/16, 8pm; Sat/17, 6pm; Sun/18, 3pm. 42nd Street Moon performs the "forgotten musical" that inspired the Broadway hit Mamma Mia!
Elektra Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-110. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm); Sun/18, 2pm. Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis stars in Sophocles' Greek tragedy.
Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm (no show Sat/17). Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow's musical comedy revue all about food.
The Foreigner Mission Dolores Academy Auditorium, 3371 16th St, SF; (650) 952-3021. Free (donations requested). Fri/16, 7:30pm; Sat/17-Sun/18, 3pm. 16th Street Players perform Larry Shue's comedy about an Englishman in the American South.
Geezer Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $30-100. Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 7pm. Geoff Hoyle's popular solo show about aging returns.
The Hundred Flowers Project Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.crowdedfire.org. $10-35. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm. Reinvention is as American as apple pie allowing every individual to shed the limitations of the past and move constantly forward. Of course it's not an exclusively American concept, a point Christopher Chen makes early on in his latest play, The Hundred Flowers Project. A group of Asian American actors gather to collaborate on a play about the Maoist Cultural Revolution, focusing first on the idea of China as a "country of only beginnings ... built on the idea of no past," while wrestling with the implications of creating and recreating history as you go along, including, eventually, their own. Ultimately the ideal overtakes their earnest intentions and hijacks the play to serve its own dictatorial end, each actor reduced to an insubstantial shadow of their former "selves," from the over-eager Sam (Ogie Zulueta) to the penitent philanderer Mike (Wiley Naman Strasser) to his somewhat wary ex, Lily (Anna Ishida). Their identities gobbled up by the restless juggernaut the play has morphed into after a triumphal five-year world-tour they hover constantly just on the edges of a dangerous discovery, their once lively sense of purpose replaced by an almost willful inability to question their roles or their fate. Chen's sprawling, Orwellian tour de force is further bolstered by an army of adroit designers and the competent hand of director Desdemona Chiang, who one hopes is a slightly more benign force than the director of the play-within-the-play, Mel (Charisse Loriaux). (Gluckstern)
Lost Love Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, Ste 217, SF; www.mojotheatre.com. $28. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm. Modern love and modern life: it's all a wash in this very funny and smart play from playwright-director Peter Papadopoulos about two pairs of lost souls thrown together in the shoals of a soggy apocalypse. Mitzy (a sure Elena Spittler) is a stunned bride whose just lost her wedding party and everyone she knew except the valet, Tito (a perfectly deadpan Carlos Flores, Jr.), a loose canon if ultimately goodhearted, who finds himself clinging to the same rock after some unmentioned catastrophe. Meanwhile, Jan (a brilliantly, manically articulate Kimberly Lester) has gone from just sexy crazy to all-out nuts for her girlfriend Barb (a sharp, sympathetic Jessica Risco), whose recent infidelity has apparently triggered Jan's meltdown, key symptoms of which include an obsession with a certain downbeat French existentialist on the Discovery Channel (a spritely Roy Eikleberry in an outrageous French accent so mal it's bon), and shedding all material possessions in their mutually decorated apartment. What happens when they all end up together? The possibilities, if not endless, spell end times for the old world. The welcome inaugural production by newcomers Mojo Theatre turns out to have preempted Hurricane Sandy with its own storm of the century, proving rather timely as well as dramatically very worthwhile. Director Papadopoulos makes excellent use of modest resources in staging the action with dynamic contrasts and choice detailing, across a set of finely tuned ensemble performances, as the eccentricities and common sense at war within and between his characters begin slowly and surely to unravel a life out of balance, merrily and mercifully making way for who knows what. (Avila)
Phaedra's Love Bindlestiff Studios, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.doitliveproductions.com. $15. Wed/14-Sat/17, 8pm. Although she didn't make it into the 21st century herself, British playwright Sarah Kane (1971-1999) left behind a small group of plays that continue to test the complacency of an age lulled into thinking itself ultimately rational and civilized. In Kane's cutting, brutally funny reworking of Seneca's play (itself an adaptation of Euripides' Hippolytus), the titular lovelorn queen (an amiably tormented Whitney Thomas) throws herself shamelessly at her stepson, royal slob Hippolytus (a sharp yet low-key Michael Zavala, channeling mumblecore nihilism) despite, or because of, his pungent contempt for everyone around him. The play's main action, however, takes place after Phaedra has killed herself, leaving a note accusing Hippolytus of rape and setting in motion a downfall that is his own perverse salvation. Despite occasionally flagging momentum, director Ben Landmesser and newcomers Do It Live! (in their second outing since last season's debut, an agile staging of Sam Shepard's Suicide in B Flat) deliver a worthy production of this clever gem. While a sporadic, low-murmuring sound design (by Hannah Birch Carl) infuses the atmosphere with a muffled libidinal menace, the thrust stage brings us close to the action, rubbing our noses in the fetid whisperings and fumblings of royal parasites and their dialectical kin, the infantilized, desensitized masses. Kane's Hippolytus, meanwhile, turns from a sort of repellent Hamlet without motive to a Genet-like criminal-saint whose martyrdom is a solitary ecstasy of stark perception. (Avila)
The Rainmaker Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.org. $38. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 22. Shelton Theatre preforms N. Richard Nash's classic drama.
"ReOrient 2012 Festival and Forum" Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.goldenthread.org. $20. Series A runs Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 7pm. Series B runs Sat/17-Sun/18, 8pm. After a three-year hiatus, Golden Thread Productions' ReOrient Festival of short plays from and about the Middle East is back (coupled with an impressive two-day forum of talks, panels, workshops, and performance around art and politics in the wake of the Arab Spring and other momentous developments across the region). The first of two series of plays, Series A, includes War & Peace, a short symbolical comedy by 20th-century Egyptian literary giant Tawfiq Al-Hakim (handily translated by May Jayyusi and David Wright) that distills imposing social forces into a three-way ménage between a smart, free-spirited woman (a vibrant Lena Hart), her secret suitor in a showman's coattails and cane (a comically fervent Jesse Horne), and her jealous husband, a violent-tempered military officer (a suave yet stentorian Garth Petal). Sharply directed by Hafiz Karmali, it's an effervescent little farce that in its power dynamics, and the elusive happiness of the characters, neatly limns bigger themes never timelier in Egypt (or here). It's followed by Farzam Farrokhi's 2012, directed by Sara Razavi, a low-key second-coming cum coffee klatch among three laid-back, cell phone-obsessed messiahs (Cory Censoprano, Horne, Roneet Aliza Rahamim) from the three Abrahamic religions that sets an unexpected tone but never really amounts to much. Far more dramatic is Birds Flew In by Yussef El Guindi (of Golden Thread hit Language Rooms, among others), a monologue by a single Arab American mother mourning her deceased soldier-son and wondering where she might have gone wrong. Delivered with unsentimental grit by Nora El Samahy, it's a strongly voiced if familiar story that registers ambivalence with facile patriotism and violent nationalism, yet unconvincingly retreats at the last moment into a familiar red-white-and-blue corner. Silva Semericiyan's Stalemate, directed by Desdemona Chiang, is a triptych of scenes between changing pairs of men (played by Censoprano and Horne) that aims at a transnational snapshot of ingrained patterns of male aggression (from Fleet Street to Red Light Amsterdam to war-torn Baghdad) but comes across too weakly and a little confusingly. Durected by Christine Young, Jen Silverman's In the Days That Follow set in Boston amid clichés of American openness, innocence and possibility (albeit charmingly personified by Censoprano) is the longest piece and the most dramatically interesting, if also somewhat strained, positing a 22-year-old Jewish Israeli translator and IDF veteran (Rahamim) as the instigator of peaceful dialogue and mutual affection with an older and politically hardened Palestinian Lebanese poet (El Samahy). Finally, in Mona Mansour and Tala Manassah's sweet but drifting meta-theatrical, The Letter, directed by Razavi, a Palestinian American physicist (Petal) and his philosopher daughter (Hart) mount an amateur theater piece to respond to the 2011 controversy over CUNY's blocking of an honorary degree to Tony Kushner based on an attack by a CUNY board member on Kushner's opposition to Israel's occupation of Palestine. (Avila)
Roseanne: Live! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25. Wed/14, 7 and 9pm. Lady Bear, Heklina, D'Arcy Drollinger, and more star in this tribute to the long-running sitcom.
Shocktoberfest 13: The Bride of Death Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $25-35. Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm. Thrillpeddlers' seasonal assortment of yeasty Grand Guignol playlets is a mixed bag of treats, but it all goes so nicely with the autumnal slink into early nights and dark cravings. Fredrick Whitney's Coals of Fire is lightly amusing, if far from smoking, as a two-hander about a blind older matron (Leigh Crow) who discovers her young companion (Zelda Koznofski, alternating nights with Nancy French) has been secretly schtupping her husband. I'm a Mummy is a short, not very effective musical interlude by Douglas Byng, featuring the bright pair of Jim Jeske and Annie Larson as Mr. and Mrs., respectively. The titular feature, The Bride of Death, written by Michael Phillis and directed by Russell Blackwood, proves a worthy centerpiece, unfolding an intriguing, well-acted tale about a reporter (Phillis) and his photographer (Flynn DeMarco) arriving at a stormy castle to interview a strangely youthful Grand Guignol stage star (Bonni Suval) making her film debut. After another, this time more rousing musical number, Those Beautiful Ghouls (with music and lyrics by Scrumbly Koldewyn; directed and choreographed by D'Arcy Drollinger), comes the evening's real high point, The Twisted Pair by Rob Keefe, acted to the bloody hilt by leads Blackwood and DeMarco as the titular duo of scientists driven mad by an experimental batch of 'crazy' glue. All of it comes capped, of course, by the company's signature lights-out spook show. (Avila)
Speed-the-Plow Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Extended through Dec 21. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs the David Mamet drama.
"Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep" Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $10-50 (festival pass, $75). Thu/15, 7:30pm; Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm); Sun/18, 5pm. The first pair in the Cutting Ball Theater's cycle of five newly-translated August Strindberg chamber plays, Storm and Burned House share much in common. Written in 1907, five years before Strindberg's death, they are the most straightforward, least supernaturally-charged of the five, whose characters are haunted by memories rather than actual ghosts, and whose cloak and dagger domestic intrigues foreshadow Alfred Hitchcock as much as they do Harold Pinter. Both star a commanding pair of veteran Bay Area actors James Carpenter and Robert Parsons as elderly brothers, whose ability to move forward in the present is impeded by memories of past mistakes. In Storm, Carpenter plays the role of an elderly cuckold, whose wife left him five years previous and who, in the words of Parsons, "murdered" his reputation. In Burned House, Carpenter returns to his childhood home from America, a long-lost prodigal son, only to find it has burned to the ground, and with it, any hope of reconciling an unpleasant past. In both, an atmosphere of muted mendacity and stifling unease crowds the stage like an unnamed character whose presence is little acknowledged but felt acutely by all the principles. Gloomy and hostile, bereft of even the slightest glimmer of hopefulness, Storm and Burned House will appeal most to Strindberg completists, post-naturalists, and admirers of new translations (of which Paul Walsh has done a stellar job). (Gluckstern)
The Submission New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm (no shows Nov 21-22); Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 16. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs Jeff Talbott's drama about a playwright who falsifies his identity when he enters his latest work into a prestigious theater festival.
Superior Donuts Gough Street Playhouse, 1622 Gough, SF; www.custommade.org. $25-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Dec 2. Custom Made Theatre performs Tracy Letts' poignant, Chicago-set comedy.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, Sixth Flr., SF; www.ninjazofdrama.com. $10. Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 3pm). Ninjaz of Drama perform the Shakespeare classic.
The Waiting Period Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through Dec 8. 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)
Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through Nov 24. Lynne Kaufman's new play stars Warren David Keith as the noted spiritual figure.
The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink '80s Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Dec 16. 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)
Richard the First: Part One, Part Two, Part Three Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.centralworks.org. $14-25. Thu/15-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, three-part marathon, 2, 5, 8pm. This Central Works Method Trilogy presents a rotating schedule of three plays by Gary Graves about the king known as "the Lionheart."
Richard III Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.aeofberkeley.org. $12-15. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs the Shakespeare classic.
Sex, Slugs and Accordion Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $10. Wed/14, 8pm. Jetty Swart, a.k.a. Jet Black Pearl, stars in this "wild and exotic evening of song."
The Sound of Music Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $15-35. Thu-Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Dec 2. Berkeley Playhouse opens its fifth season with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Toil and Trouble La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm (no show Nov 22). Through Dec 8. Impact Theatre presents Lauren Gunderson's world premiere comedy inspired by Macbeth.
The White Snake Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-99. Opens Wed/14, 8pm. Runs Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Nov 29, Dec 13, and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Dec 1; no show Nov 22); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 23. Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) returns to Berkeley Rep with this classic romance adapted from a Chinese legend.
Wilder Times Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Tue, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Dec 9. Aurora Theatre performs a collection of one-acts by Thornton Wilder.
The World's Funniest Bubble Show Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun, 11am; Nov 23-25, 11am. Through Nov 25. Louis "The Amazing Bubble Man" Pearl brings his lighter-than-air show back to the Marsh.
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason Center, SF; www.improv.org. $20. "Theatresports," Fri, 8pm, through Dec 21. "Family Drama," Sat, 8pm, through Nov 24.
"The Buddy Club Children's Shows" Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Wy, SF; www.thebuddyclub.com. Sun/18, 11am. $8. Magician Timothy James performs.
"Clone Zone" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; clonezone.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm; Sun/18, 7pm. $20. Anna and the Annadroids perform a multi-media dance theater piece inspired by video games and Carl Jung.
"Comedy Bodega" Esta Noche Nightclub, 3079 16th St, SF; www.comedybodega.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. No cover (one drink minumum). This week: Caitlin Gill, Wonder Dave, and friends.
"The Comikaze Lounge: A Showcase of Smart Comedy" Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; www.comikazelounge.com. Wed/14, 8pm. Free. Comedy with Brendan Lynch, Griffin Daley, Drew Harmon, and more.
"Fauxgirls!" Infusion Lounge, 124 Ellis, SF; www.fauxgirls.com. Thu/15, 8pm. Free. Drag revue with Victoria Secret, Alexandria, Chanel, Maria Garza, and more.
"Illuminique Under the Dome" Westfield SF Centre, 865 Market, SF; westfield.com/sanfrancisco. Thu/15, 4:30pm. Free. Dancers from the San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker perform a demonstration for children at this launch event for the shopping center's new 3D holiday light display.
International Taiko Festival Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, SF; www.ybca.org. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm (also Sat/17, 2pm). $32-38. With Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka and San Francisco Taiko Dojo, and more.
"Life with Laughter" Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/16, 8:30pm. $10-20. Variety show featuring comedy, storytelling, spoken word, and music.
"New Frequencies Fest 2012" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm. $20-25. Fri/16: "Women, Strings, and Song" with women songwriters and composers performing live; Sat/17: Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio and a lively celebration of the African Diaspora.
"Our Daily Bread" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thu/15-Sun/18, 8pm. $20-30. Amara Tabor-Smith's Deep Waters Dance Theater performs a work inspired by food traditions.
"Round One Cabaret" Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; roundonecabaret.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm. $30. Not Quite Opera presents this showcase of new songs by Bay Area composers.
San Francisco International Hip Hop Festival Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.cityboxoffice.com. Program A: Fri/16, 8pm and Sun/18, 2pm. Program B: Sat/17, 8pm and Sun/18, 7pm. $39.99 (combo tickets, $75). Sixteen hip-hop dance companies from the Bay Area, the East Coast, Europe, and more perform at this 14th annual event.
"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.
"The Way Tomorrow Was: A Retro-Future Burlesque and Bellydance Revue" 50 Mason Social House, 50 Mason, SF; www.lightreclaimed.com. Sat/17, 10pm. $12-20. Retro space-age performances.
Mills Repertory Dance Company Lisser Theatre, Mills College, 5000 Macarthur, Oakl; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/16-Sat/17, 8pm (also Fri/16, 1pm). Also Sun/18, 3pm at Dance Mission Theatre, 336 24th St., SF. $12-15. Fall concert with works by Sonya Delwaide, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Katie Faulkner, and others.
"Yes, Bay Area: The Selected Tweets of Lyrics Born: A Reading with Beats" Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-1320. Sun/18, 7:30pm. Free. The musican shares his first book at this "musically enhanced literary reading" presented by First Person Singular's On Book series.
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