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.
Elektra Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-110. Previews Thu/25-Sat/27 and Tue/30, 8pm (also Sat/27, 2pm). Opens Oct 31, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat and Nov 13, 8pm (also Nov 3, 7, 10, and 17, 2pm); Sun, 2pm (also Nov 4, 7pm). Through Nov 18. Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis stars in Sophocles’ Greek tragedy.
The Hundred Flowers Project Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.crowdedfire.org. $10-35. Previews Thu/25-Fri/26, 8pm. Opens Mon/29, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 17. Crowded Fire Theater presents the world premiere of Christopher Chen’s election-year drama about a theater company who get carried away while working on a play about Mao Tse Tung and the birth of modern China.
Lost Love Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, Ste 217, SF; www.mojotheatre.com. $28. Opens Wed/24, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 17. Peter Papadopoulos directs the West Coast premiere of his climate-change comic tragedy at Mojo Theatre.
Phaedra’s Love Bindlestiff Studios, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.doitliveproductions.com. $15. Opens Sat/27, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 17. Do It Live! Productions presents Sarah Kane’s reinvention of the Phaedra myth.
The Rainmaker Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.org. $38. Opens Fri/26, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 22. Shelton Theatre preforms N. Richard Nash’s classic drama.
The Sound of Music Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $15-35. Previews Thu/25, 7pm; Sat/27, 2pm. Opens Sat/27, 7pm. Runs 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.
And That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter, SF; www.whatgirlsaremadeof.com. $20-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Nov 4. Jennifer Wilson’s multimedia play chronicles her attempts to break into the male-dominated world of venture capital funds.
Bound By Blood Boxcar Theatre Playhouse, 505 Natoma, SF; www.ianiroproductions.com. $20. Thu/25-Sat/27, 8pm. Opening on the heels of ACT’s production of The Normal Heart, local theater-maker Eric Inman’s Bound By Blood also explores the devastating human fallout of the AIDS crisis as experienced by the two families one of blood relations and one of chosen friends of a young gay man, whose death affects them all. Appearing onstage both as a ghost and in a series of flashbacks, Justin Walker (played by Inman) deals with his fear of dying by ditching his meds in favor of drink, and his fear of coming out to his conservative family by postponing the inevitable until it’s too late, leaving his friends holding the burden of his inconvenient truth in their unwilling hands. Awkward moments abound as Justin’s buddies ponder the ethics of outing him posthumously, as his mother (Sally Hogarty) and sister (CC Sheldon) bicker incessantly and his erstwhile "beard" Alice (Abigail Edber) pluckily spearheads the funeral planning. This is Inman’s first full-length play, which helps to explain the often-clunky dialogue and under-developed characters that unfortunately obscure the play’s dramatic potential, but the ideals he champions within tolerance, self-acceptance, integrity, loyalty, love are ones well worth exploring, even imperfectly. (Gluckstern)
Elect to Laugh Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; 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)
Fat Pig Boxcar Theatre Studio, 125A Hyde, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 10. Theater Toda presents Neil LaBute’s dark comedy about a man who faces scrutiny from his friends when he falls for a plus-sized woman.
Fierce Love: Stories From Black Gay Life New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-37. Wed/24-Sat/27, 8pm; Sun/28, 2pm. Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint, the storied Castro club and venue (which closed in 1999), helped give rise to many celebrated Bay Area and national acts but among those to travel furthest from the nest was Pomo Afro Homos, the queer black trio of Djola Branner, Brian Freeman, and the late Eric Gupton, whose debut piece, Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life, was a groundbreaking mélange of sketch comedy, musical numbers, and poignant stories. The group disbanded in 1995, but New Conservatory Theater Center and AfroSolo are presenting the local debut of its revival and update, helmed by original member Freeman, who also performs in the piece alongside a very sharp trio of younger actors: Duane Boutté, Rashad Pridgen, and Thandiwe Thomas De Shazor. True, not every component in this basic but inspired variety show has aged well for instance, "Men on Mens," a once-timely spoof of In Living Color‘s then-controversial "Men on&ldots;" sketch series, feels tired, in not downright obscure but it is impressive how much vitality and charm the show maintains. Whether as entertainment or activism, Fierce Love (Remix) connects to a past and present invigorated by its humor, honesty, and grit. (Avila)
The Fifth Element: Live! Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. Fri/26-Sat/27, 8pm. Comedic adaptation of the 1997 Luc Besson sci-fi epic.
Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm (no show Nov 17). Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow’s musical comedy revue all about food.
Geezer Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $30-100. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Nov 18. Geoff Hoyle’s popular solo show about aging returns.
Love in the Time of Zombies Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; sftheaterpub.wordpress.com. Free ($5 donation suggested). Mon/29-Tue/30, 8pm. San Francisco Theater Pub performs Kirk Shimano’s "rom-zom-com."
The Real Americans Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri/26, 8pm; Sat/27, 8:30pm. Dan Hoyle’s hit show, inspired by the people and places he encountered during his 100-day road trip across America in 2009, continues.
Roseanne: Live! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $25. Wed, 7 and 9pm (no shows Oct 31). Through Nov 14. Lady Bear, Heklina, D’Arcy Drollinger, and more star in this tribute to the long-running sitcom.
The Scotland Company Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.thunderbirdtheatre.com. $15-25. Thu/25-Sat/27, 8pm. Scotland might be all heroin and acid house à la Irvine Welsh these days (or perhaps not), but back in the beginning, that is to say roughly 1897, it simply didn’t exist at all. Invented whole kilt from the barren region formerly known as "North England" by Queen Victoria’s bumbling Diamond Jubilee committee chair Henry Scot (Austin Madison), Scot-land is ushered onto the map by a band of misfits with outrageous accents, puppet dignitaries, and one incredibly resourceful and underappreciated woman, Wilhemina Pennycandy (Xanadu Bruggers). At least that’s the premise of Thunderbird Theatre’s latest offering The Scotland Company, by Jake Rosenberg. You probably haven’t heard of Jake Rosenberg before, since he’s still a high school student in Marin, but if he’s able to churn out a two-hour historical comedy at the tender age of 16, chances are good that you will hear from him again in the future. True, one hopes that by then he’ll have learned to tone down the boys’ club bellicosity a bit, but where Rosenberg’s dialogue falters, the mostly solid cast including a flexibly manic Max Bernstein, a buffoonish Jason Topolski, and a deftly gender-bending Rik Lopes buoys up the pace and births a nation. Also, bagpipes. (Gluckstern)
Shocktoberfest 13: The Bride of Death Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $25-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 17. 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)
"Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep" Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $10-50 (festival pass, $75). Previews Thu/25, 7:30pm and Fri/26, 8pm (part two); Nov 1, 7:30pm and Nov 2, 8pm (part three). Opens Sat/27, 8pm (part two) and Nov 3, 8pm (part three). Runs Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Through Nov 18. Cutting Ball performs a festival of August Strindberg in three parts: The Ghost Sonata, The Pelican and The Black Glove, and Storm and Burned House.
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.
Assassins Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-30. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Nov 4. Shotgun Players interrupts this season of dreary electoral debates with an important announcement about the country you live in, as the sure and provocative 1990 musical by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and John Weidman (book) stitches together American history’s odd assortment of successful and failed presidential assassins to explore the darker recesses of the national mythos. Through an eclectic score of deft period-specific songs and the narrative framework of a feverish carnival shooting gallery overseen by a nefarious proprietor (Jeff Garrett) a pageant of kooks and rebels parades, beginning with pioneer assassin John Wilkes Booth (an aptly imposing Galen Murphy-Hoffman). He, in turn, acts as a sort of patron saint to those that follow in his footsteps including Charles Guiteau (Steven Hess), Leon Czolgosz (Dan Saski), Giuseppe Zangara (Aleph Ayin), John Hinckley (Danny Cozart), Sam Byck (Ryan Drummond), Sara Jane Moore (Rebecca Castelli), Squeaky Fromme (Cody Metzger), and of course Lee Harvey Oswald (Kevin Singer, in a part that doubles with that of the Balladeer). Throughout, director Susannah Martin’s strong cast and musical director David Möschler’s lively eight-piece band insure a raucous, thoughtful, and intimate American fever dream. (Avila)
An Iliad Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $14.50-77. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through Nov 11. Berkeley Rep performs Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s Homer-inspired tale.
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-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (three-part marathon Sundays, Nov 11 and 18, 2, 5, 8pm). Through Nov 18. 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-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 17. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley performs the Shakespeare classic.
Sex, Slugs and Accordion Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $10. Wed, 8pm. Through Nov 14. Jetty Swart, a.k.a. Jet Black Pearl, stars in this "wild and exotic evening of song."
33 Variations TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; www.theatreworks.org. $23-73. Wed/24, 7:30pm; Thu/25-Sat/27, 8pm (also Sat/27, 2pm); Sun/28, 2 and 7pm. TheatreWorks performs Moisés Kaufman’s drama about a contemporary musicologist struggling to solve one of Beethoven’s greatest mysteries, and a connecting story about the composer himself.
Within the Wheel Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.raggedwing.org. Free. Thu-Sat, 6pm (last entry 7:30pm; special Halloween show Oct 31). Through Nov 3. Ragged Wing Ensemble presents an immersive performance experience inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
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.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, SF; www.ybca.org. Wed/24-Thu/25, 7:30pm; Fri/26-Sat/27, 8pm; Sun/28, 5pm. $30-65. The company celebrates 30 years with its fall home season.
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason Center, SF; www.improv.org. Fri/26, 8pm: "This Just In!," $20. Sat/27, 8pm: "Improvised Horror Musical," $20.
"Comedy Bodega" Esta Noche Nightclub, 3079 16th St, SF; www.comedybodega.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. No cover (one drink minumum). This week: Marga Gomez, Natasha Muse, David Hawkins, and Cara Tramantano.
"Dream Queens Revue" Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF; www.dreamqueensrevue.com. Wed/24, 9:30pm. Free. Drag with Collette LeGrande, MC Ruby Slippers, Sophilya Leggz, and more.
"Faces of Nature" Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF; www.dancemission.com. Sun/28, 7pm. $15. Solo dance work by Rosangela Silvestre.
"Halloween! The Ballad of Michele Myers" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; michelemyers2012.eventbrite.com. Fri-Sun and Oct 31, 8pm. Through Oct 31. $25. Drag superstar Raya Light returns in the seasonally-appropriate horror musical.
"The Hula Show 2012" Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF; www.naheihulu.org. Fri/26-Sat/27, 8pm; Sun/28, 8pm (children’s matinee Sun/28, noon). $35-90. Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu performs its annual show, featuring a hula satirizing President Obama’s birth certificate controversy.
"An Intimate Evening With Mary Wilson" Venetian Room, Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason, SF; www.bayareacabaret.org. Sun/28, 7pm. $40-75. The legendary Motown singer performs her cabaret show.
"John Cage Centennial Celebration" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. The late, groundbreaking composer is honored with a concert of his Constructions works, Thu/25, 8pm, $10-30; a lecture, "John Cage’s Queer Silence," by scholar Jonathan D. Katz, Sat/27, 2pm, $10; "Musicircus," a performance marathon of close to 40 Cage works, Sun/28, 1-5pm, free; and a screening of the 1991 doc Cage/Cunningham, Sun/28, 2pm, free.
"The Rita Hayworth of This Generation" Marsh, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. Wed/24, 7:30pm, $10-15. Tina D’Elia performs her acclaimed solo show.
"San Francisco Magic Parlor" Chancellor Hotel Union Square, 433 Powell, SF; www.sfmagicparlor.com. $40. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Ongoing. Magic vignettes with conjurer and storyteller Walt Anthony.
"Seeking Resolve" Studio B, ODC Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF; www.ziruproductions.com. Fri/26, 8:30pm; Sat/27-Sun/28, 8pm. $20. Philein/ZiRu Productions presents its fifth home season, with new works by Philein Wang, Charles Anderson, Liu Yi Feng, Scott Putman, and Sunny Shen.
"Spiral Dance Ritual" Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan, SF; www.reclaimingspiraldance.org. Sat/27, 7:30pm. $10-100 (sliding scale). The 33rd annual Spiral Dance Ritual is an interactive event using art, music, poetry, and dance to honor the dead and celebrate the "Witches’ and Pagans’ New Year."
"To Bury a Cat: Clown Show" Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St, SF; facebook.com/clownsonastick. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Nov 3. $12-20. Clowns on a Stick perform a lighthearted (but macabre!) Halloween show.