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.
Family Programming: An Evening of Short Comedic Plays Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Opens Fri/21, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Oct 13. Left Coast Theatre Company performs short plays about gay and alternative families.
Asteroids: Live! Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; (415) 401-7987. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. Interstellar comedy “based very, very loosely on the arcade game.”
Henry V Presidio of San Francisco, Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, SF; www.sfshakes.org. Free. Sat/22-Sun/23, 2pm. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival celebrates the 30th anniversary of Free Shakespeare in the Park with this history play.
Invasion! Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; crowdedfire.dreamhosters.com. $20-35. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. Crowded Fire mounts the West Coast premiere of Swedish-born playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s postmodern dark comedy, a deconstruction of language and power in an American culture of perpetual war, which made a well-received New York debut last year. Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, and directed by Evren Odcikin, the play immediately subverts the usual multi-culti narrative of otherness and tolerance with a po-faced feint (featuring ensemble members Lawrence Radecker and Olivia Rosaldo-Pratt) that ends with a boisterous disruption of the proceedings from unexpected quarters (courtesy of ensemble members George Psarras and Wiley Naman Strasser). From there, we get a series of interrelated largely comical scenes, wherein — in shades of Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life — a certain figure by the name of Abulkasem dissolves into the ultimate cipher, tied to everything from terror to pick-up lines in bars, and meaning absolutely anything and nothing. Nevertheless, in the interstices of language lurks real power — as the play implies most overly in a scene of intentional mistranslation, which twists a hapless and bemused immigrant’s tale into line with the war-on-terror mythos. In the end, the complexity the play adds does not completely dissolve that liberal narrative skewered at the outset, and its efforts remain only half-convincing. The problem may lie partly in the production’s inconsistent, often sluggish pace, as well as a tendency toward didacticism in director Odcikin’s staging. The material of this sardonic play doesn’t support too literal or even empathetic a reading, but rather seems best translated as a raucous premonition, dream, or intimation of our own guilty seduction by the sadistic, totalizing power of such stories. (Avila)
Kiss of the Spider Woman Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, SF; secondwind.8m.com. $15-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 29. Second Wind presents Manuel Puig’s acclaimed drama about cellmates in a Buenos Aires jail.
My Fair Lady SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-70. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through Sept 29. SF Playhouse and artistic director Bill English (who helms) offer a swift, agreeable production of the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The iconic class-conscious storyline revolves around a cocky linguist named Higgins (Johnny Moreno) who bets colleague Colonel Pickering (Richard Frederick) he can transform an irritable flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Monique Hafen), into a “lady” and pass her off in high society. A battle of wills and wits ensues — interlarded with the “tragedy” of Alfred Doolittle (a shrewd and gleaming Charles Dean) and his reluctant upward fall into respectability — and love (at least in the musical version) triumphs. The songs (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” and the rest) remain evergreen in the cast’s spirited performances, supported by two offstage pianos (brought to life by David Dobrusky and musical director Greg Mason) and nimble choreography from Kimberly Richards. Hafen’s Eliza is especially admirable, projecting in dialogue and song a winning combination of childlike innocence and feminine potency. Moreno’s Higgins is also good, unusually virile yet heady too, a convincingly flawed if charming egotist. And Frederick, who adds a passing hint of homoerotic energy to his portrayal of the devoted Pickering, is gently funny and wholly sympathetic. (Avila)
The Normal Heart American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $25-95. Tue, 7pm; Wed-Sun, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (also Sept 23, 8pm). Through Oct 7. Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking 1985 drama about the AIDS epidemic — winner of a 2011 Tony for Best Revival of a Play — has a limited run at ACT.
The Other Place Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, Third Flr, SF; www.magictheatre.org. $22-62. Previews Wed/19, 8pm. Opens Thu/20, 8pm. Runs Tue, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm (also Sat/22 and Oct 3, 2:30pm); Sun, 2:30 (Oct 7 show at 7pm instead). Through Oct 7. Sharr White’s plot-twisty thriller has its West Coast premiere at Magic Theatre.
Port Out, Starboard Home Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.foolsfury.org. $12-35. Wed/19-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 2pm. foolsFURY performs the world premiere of Sheila Callaghan’s black comedy.
The Real Americans Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through Sept 29. Dan Hoyle’s hit show about his trip across America returns.
Rigoletto War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF; www.sfopera.com. $10-340. Wed/19 and Sept 25, 7:30; Fri/21, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 30. “Fidelity is for weaklings!” Despite this rousing cry from its philandering villain, SF Opera opens its 90th season with a faithful and winsome double-cast production of Giuseppe Verdi’s immortal Rigoletto. Based on a play by Victor Hugo, the story concerns the titular court jester and hunchback (played opening night by the imposing Serbian baritone Zeljko Lucic, who alternates nights with Italian Marco Vratogna) whose attempt to revenge himself on the goatish Duke of Mantua (Sardinian tenor Francesco Demuro, alternating with Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz) for seducing his beautiful daughter, Gilda (the thoroughly enchanting Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, alternating with Russian coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova), backfires with tragic consequences. The production includes free simulcast presentations at AT&T Ballpark on consecutive weekends for those more inclined to recline, especially in the fresh free air, but either way the show’s a little staid but charming and the music, under SF Opera’s Nicola Luisotti, utterly transporting. (Avila)
Strange Travel Suggestions MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm. Through Sept 29. Author and Ethical Traveler founder Jeff Greenwald (Shopping for Buddhas, Snake Lake) has done his solo show Strange Travel Suggestions dozens if not hundreds of times and still has no idea where it’s going. No wonder he and his audience keep coming back for more. The unknown, an aphrodisiac to the traveler, also makes great catnip for the storyteller. Still, there are consistent elements. There is no need to reinvent the wheel — or the impressive Wheel of Fortune that sits just off center stage, painted with a map of the globe and ringed with symbols abstract and evocative enough to conjure up myriad adventures, peak experiences, and humbling encounters from the vivid grab-bag memory of an accomplished travel writer and inveterate globetrotter. There’s also a real grab bag, just in case, and an oversize tarot card, a sort of visual aid cum talisman sporting a classic image of the Fool, patron saint of the traveler’s heedless leaps of faith. Greenwald’s stories possess a fine sense of humor and a knack for the shrewd detail and telling observation. They also contain a Zen-inflected homespun wisdom no doubt born of leaving home on a regular basis. If slightly self-conscious at times, these tales are always genuine and appealing. In the end, Greenwald’s show, as reliable as it is unpredictable, mimics a genie-from-a-bottle experience: What you get is three spins, three stories, and a lot of unexpected truth. Note: capsule condensed from 2008 feature review of this production. (Avila)
Tripping on the Tipping Point Stagewerx, 446 Valencia, SF; (707) 322-5731. $15-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. Human Nature performs a new comedy about global warming.
Twelfth Night San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Hyde Street Pier, 2905 Hyde, SF; www.weplayers.org. $30-80. Fri-Sun, 5:30pm (also Sat-Sun, noon; matinee only Sat/22; no performances Sept 29; evening performances only Oct 6-7). Through Oct 7. We Players board the Balclutha and the Eureka for this jazzy take on Shakespeare’s romance.
The Waiting Period MainStage, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Extended through Sept 29. 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)
Chinglish Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-99. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; no show Oct 5; additional 2pm show Oct 4); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through Oct 7. Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) delivers this inconsistent but generally lively and fascinatingly au courant comedy about a down-on-his-luck American businessman (Alex Moggridge) who visits China hoping to win a contract for English-language signage. Hiring a British expat (Brian Nishii) to smooth the way for him, he enters negotiations with a local official (Larry Lei Zhang). Although things seem to be going well (across some hilarious scenes of half-assed simultaneous translation), he finds the deal running inexplicably aground, then finds unexpected help from a hard-nosed, initially hostile, and beautiful Party official (a standout Michelle Krusiec), with whom he soon begins an extramarital affair. But the American (who has a past of his own that eventually comes to light with surprising consequences) has no idea of the machinations taking place behind the formal business meetings and other confused cross-cultural encounters. What unfolds is a sometimes stretched but generally shrewd and laugh-out-loud funny assessment of has-been American delusions through the prism of rising Chinese ambitions and clout, cultural and otherwise. If the central dynamic between the lovers is not always convincing on the individual or metaphorical level, Leigh Silverman directs for Berkeley Rep a super slick production, complete with rotating sets and precisely timed entrances, featuring an enjoyable cast rounded out by Vivian Chiu, Celeste Den, and Austin Ku. (Avila)
The Death of the Novel San Jose Rep, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose; www.sjrep.com. $23-69. Wed/19, 7:30pm; Thu/20-Sat/22, 8pm (also Sat/22, 3pm). Vincent Kartheiser (a.k.a. Pete Campbell from Mad Men) stars in Jonathan Marc Feldman’s drama about creativity in post-9/11 America at San Jose Rep.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 30. Playwright Kristoffer Diaz, a self-professed fan of the aggressively-theatrical spectacle that is professional wrestling, delivers much more than a “wrestling 101” primer for the uninitiated with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Beneath the razzle-dazzle of the arena lighting (Kurt Landisman), the gaudy costuming (Maggie Whitaker) and the giant televised image of a hot bikini babe (Elizabeth Cadd, video by Jim Gross) lies the trampled luster of an American Dream. The dreamer, Macedonio “The Mace” Guerra (Tony Sancho), a wiry fall guy for THE Wrestling, wrestles not for money or glory (he is rarely privy to either), but for his love of the strange ballet that occurs in the ring. Guerra’s job is to make his opponents look good, including the pec-flexing, bling-booted Chad Deity (Beethovan Oden), leaving him to wrestle alone with the identity politics of being a marginalized but fully capable warrior battling perennially stacked odds. Willing suspension of disbelief does get stretched pretty thin when the character Vigneshwar Paduar, a smooth-talking hustler chance-met on the basketball courts of Brooklyn, rises to championship levels in record-breaking time as the truly cringe-worthy persona known as “The Fundamentalist,” but Nasser Khan’s skillfully self-possessed performance as Paduar makes it impossible not to root for him all the way. Rod Gnapp as foul-mouthed bossman “EKO” and fight director Dave Maier as a whole squadron of hapless B-list wrestlers round out the excellent cast. (Gluckstern)
The Fisherman’s Wife La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 29. The latest from playwright Steve Yockey (Bellwether, Skin) is an exercise in pure pleasure, not least for the devious sea creatures preying lustily and unashamedly on the hapless human flesh of a small coastal town. There, in cracked fairytale fashion, an unsuccessful fisherman named Cooper Minnow (an endearingly nerdy but passionate Maro Guevara) is preparing to set out to sea, leaving at home frustrated wife Vanessa (a wonderfully, volcanically bitchy yet complex Eliza Leoni) and their sinking marriage, when he meets an oddly brazen pair of sexy, sassy bathers in old-fashioned beach attire (the swimmingly synchronized duo of Sarah Coykendall and Roy Landaverde). At more or less the same moment, a devilishly dashing yet prim traveling salesman (poised, nicely offbeat Adrian Anchondo) is offering a clearly aroused Vanessa an erotic woodcut featuring monstrous tentacles groping human victims at a very familiar-looking dock. Will she take the woodcut? Will she ever! And later she’ll defend her husband’s honor and swap places with him too, much to the commercial advantage of the ever-accommodating salesman who — like Yockey’s smart and sure sex farce — has a little something for everyone. Directed with smooth precision by Ben Randle for Berkeley’s Impact Theatre, The Fisherman’s Wife again finds Yockey playing productively with the fine fuzzy line separating human nature from nature at large (as in Large Animal Games, the winning 2009 co-production from Impact and Dad’s Garage). The animals come through for playwright and company once more, with a thoroughly enjoyable comedy whose borrowed maritime mythos has just enough metaphorical pull to lead those so inclined out beyond the shallow waters. (Avila)
Keith Moon/The Real Me TheaterStage at the March Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu, 8pm. Through Sept 27. Mike Berry workshops his new musical, featuring ten classic Who songs performed with a live band.
The Kipling Hotel: True Misadventures of the Electric Pink ’80s Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Extended through Oct 14. 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)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Belle, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-35. Check website for schedule. Through Sept 30. Marin Shakespeare Company performs the Bard’s classic, transported to the shores of Hawaii.
“Comikaze Lounge” Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; www.comikazelounge.com. Wed/19, 8pm. Free. Comedy with Kevin Camia, Mike Drucker, Paco Romane, Lydia Papovich, and more.
“Dogsbody” Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, SF; dogsbody.eventbrite.com. Fri/21-Sun/23, 8pm. $10. Erik Ehn’s play about child soldiers features choreography by Erika Chong Shuch.
“Elect to Laugh” Studio Theater, Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. Tue, 8pm. Through Nov 6. $15-50. Veteran political comedian Will Durst emphasizes he’s watching the news and keeping track of the presidential race “so you don’t have to.” No kidding, it sounds like brutal work for anyone other than a professional comedian — for whom alone it must be Willy Wonka’s edible Eden of delicious material. Durst deserves thanks for ingesting this material and converting it into funny, but between the ingesting and out-jesting there’s the risk of turning too palatable what amounts to a deeply offensive excuse for a democratic process, as we once again hurtle and are herded toward another election-year November, with its attendant massive anticlimax and hangover already so close you can touch them. Durst knows his politics and comedy backwards and forwards, and the evolving show, which pops up at the Marsh every Tuesday in the run-up to election night, offers consistent laughs born on his breezy, infectious delivery. One just wishes there were some alternative political universe that also made itself known alongside the deft two-party sportscasting. (Avila)
“The Ella Effect” Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St, SF; www.ftloose.org. Fri/21, 8 and 9:30pm. $15. Josh Klipp and the Klipptones join with a crew of local dancers to honor the music of Ella Fitzgerald.
“Fauxgirls! San Francisco’s Favorite Drag Revue” Infusion Lounge, 124 Ellis, SF; www.fauxgirls.com. Thu/20, 8pm. Free. With Victoria Secret, Alexandria, Chanel, Maria Garza, and more.
“Hella Gay Comedy Show: Bear Comedy Night” Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF; www.decosf.com. Sun/23, 8pm. $10. Comedy with host Charlie Ballard and performers Kurt Weitzmann, David Gborie, Nick Leonard, Antwan Johnson, and more.
Kathy Mata Ballet San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak, SF; www.kathymataballet.com. Fri/21, 8pm. Free-$30. The company performs a variety of dance styles, including ballet, jazz, modern, and belly dance, plus guest performers the Gnosis Dance Collective and live musical accompaniment.
Napoles Ballet Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Buchanan, SF; www.napolesballet.org. Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 7pm. $18-25. The new company presents Carlos Molina in the world premiere of Fausto.
“Open” Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/21-Mon/24, 8pm. $20. When a couple decides to try an open marriage, hilarity (and jealousy) ensues in Jeff Bedillion’s play, performed by Back Alley Theater Productions.
“Second City for President” Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.captivatearts.com. Sun/23, 3pm. $30-55. Political comedy revue by the renowned Second City troupe.
Gina Yashere Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. Sat/22, 8pm. $18-20. The British Nigerian comedian performs.
“Freedom House” Eastside Cultural Center, 2277 International, Oakl; (510) 420-0920. Fri/21-Sat/22, 8pm; Sun/23, 2pm. $10-25. dNaga, Eastside Arts Alliance, and the Asian Pacific Islander Center present this “dance art experience” inspired by the experiences of people of color who live in Oakland.
“Risk for Deep Love” Temescal Art Center, 511 48th St, Oakl; www.eroplay.com. Fri/21, 8pm. Free. Frank Moore leads this “ritual audience participation experience experiment.”