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.
The World’s Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Opens Sun/21, 11am. Runs Sun, 11am. Through July 21. Louis “The Amazing Bubble Man” Pearl returns after a month-long hiatus with his popular, kid-friendly bubble show.
Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm (May 11, show at 8pm). Through May 18. Lynne Kaufman’s play (starring Warren Keith David as the spiritual seeker) moves from Berkeley to San Francisco.
The Bereaved Thick House, 1695 18th St, SF; www.crowdedfire.org. $10-35. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through April 27. Crowded Fire Theater launches its Mainstage season with Thomas Bradshaw’s wicked comedy about “sex, drugs, and the American dream.”
Boomeraging: From LSD to OMG Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Tue, 8pm. Through May 28. Comedian Will Durst performs his brand-new solo show.
The Bus New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $32-45. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through April 28. NCTC performs James Lantz’s tale of two young men whose meeting place for their secret relationship is a church bus.
Carnival! Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstreetmoon.org. $25-75. Wed/17, 7pm; Thu/18-Fri/19, 8pm; Sat/20, 6pm; Sun/21, 3pm. 42nd Street Moon performs the Tony Award-winning musical.
The Expulsion of Malcolm X Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.fortmason.org. $30-42.50. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 5. Colors of Vision Entertainment and GO Productions present Larry Americ Allen’s drama about the relationship between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.
Ghostbusters: Live On Stage Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission, SF; www.darkroomsf.com. $20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through April 27. Rhiannastan Productions brings the beloved 1984 comedy to the stage.
Foodies! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.foodiesthemusical.com. $30-34. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. AWAT Productions presents Morris Bobrow’s musical comedy revue all about food.
The Happy Ones Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, Third Flr, SF; www.magictheatre.org. $22-62. Wed/17-Sat/20, 8pm; Sun/21, 2:30pm. An Orange County appliance store owner finds his life turned upside down in Julie Marie Myatt’s drama at Magic Theatre.
How To Make Your Bitterness Work For You Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.bitternesstobetterness.com. $15-25. Sun, 2pm. Through May 5. Fred Raker performs his comedy about the self-help industry.
I’m Not OK, Cupid 🙁 Shelton Theatre, 533 Sutter, SF; www.leftcoasttheatreco.org. $15-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 4. Left Coast Theatre Co. presents a new collection of one-act, LGBT-themed comedies about dating and relationships.
The Lost Folio: Shakespeare’s Musicals Un-Scripted Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through May 18. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs a fully-improvised, full-length musical inspired by Shakespeare.
The Lullaby Tree Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason, SF; www.secondwind.8m.com. $15-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 4. In the face of the ever more extensive and controversial spread of GMO foods worldwide — not to mention last year’s state battle over Prop 37 — Second Wind premieres founding member and playwright Ian Walker’s half-whimsical, half-hardheaded drama about a boy searching for his mother in the underworld and a small band of lawyers and environmentalists going toe-to-toe with a multinational over the ownership of a mysterious crop of genetically engineered corn. It will eventually become plain that the two stories are linked, but first a ten-year-old boy (Samuel Berston) befriends a somewhat shrunken giant (Davern Wright) in an attempt to find his mother (Evangeline Crittenden) in an enchanted and hostile land of dragons. Elsewhere, Tim (Walker) and law partner Nod (Wright) prepare to do legal battle with a modern-day dragon, in the person of a corporate attorney (Cheryl Smith) for the ominous Mendes Corporation (read: Monsanto). They will argue over the ownership of the corn that has sprung up on the banks of a drowned town, and which may spell environmental disaster for the nature preserve surrounding it. In this fight Tim and Nod are in uneasy, ultimately disastrous alliance with activist Callie (Crittenden), whom Nod distrusts and with whom Tim is hopelessly smitten. The result is a convoluted plot and a fitful production (co-directed by Walker and Misha Hawk-Wyatt) in which a three-pronged story precariously balances the fairy tale, the romance, and the legal battle. It’s the last prong that offers the more interesting if formulaic scenes, in which the politics of GMOs mesh with the swashbuckling machinations of the attorneys. But the less compelling strands converge and take precedence, forcing things down a sentimental and forgettable road. (Avila)
reasons to be pretty San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post, Second Flr, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $30-100. Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm). Through May 11. Completing a trilogy of plays about body awareness and self-image (along with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig), Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty begins with a misconstrued remark that quickly gathers enough weight and momentum to tear three sets of relationships apart in the span of a two-hour play. The SF Playhouse production begins with a bang, or rather an awesomely knock-down, blow-out breakup fight between a righteously pissed-off Steph (Lauren English) and her awkwardly passive boyfriend Greg (Craig Marker), who has inadvertently referred to her as “regular” in a conversation with his jerkish buddy Kent (Patrick Russell), which she takes to mean he finds her ugly. English’s Steph is at turns ferocious and fragile, and her comic timing as she eviscerates Greg’s looks in a mall food court zings, while the hyperkinetic Russell elevates the condition of noxiously irredeemable douchebag to an artform. But terrific acting and polished design can only make up so much for a script that feels not only flawed, barely scratching the surface of the whys and wherefores each character has internalized an unrealistic view of the importance of conventional beauty standards, but also already dated, with its circa-2008 pop culture references. Ultimately it gives the impression of being a rerun of a Lifetime television drama that wraps itself up into a too-neat package just in time for the final credits to roll to its admittedly kickass soundtrack (provided by Billie Cox). (Gluckstern)
Sex and the City: LIVE! Rebel, 1760 Market, SF; trannyshack.com/sexandthecity. $25. Wed, 7 and 9pm. Open-ended. It seems a no-brainer. Not just the HBO series itself — that’s definitely missing some gray matter — but putting it onstage as a drag show. Mais naturellement! Why was Sex and the City not conceived of as a drag show in the first place? Making the sordid not exactly palatable but somehow, I don’t know, friendlier (and the canned a little cannier), Velvet Rage Productions mounts two verbatim episodes from the widely adored cable show, with Trannyshack’s Heklina in a smashing portrayal of SJP’s Carrie; D’Arcy Drollinger stealing much of the show as ever-randy Samantha (already more or less a gay man trapped in a woman’s body); Lady Bear as an endearingly out-to-lunch Miranda; and ever assured, quick-witted Trixxie Carr as pent-up Charlotte. There’s also a solid and enjoyable supporting cast courtesy of Cookie Dough, Jordan Wheeler, and Leigh Crow (as Mr. Big). That’s some heavyweight talent trodding the straining boards of bar Rebel’s tiny stage. The show’s still two-dimensional, even in 3D, but noticeably bigger than your 50″ plasma flat panel. (Avila)
Sheherezade 13 Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.wilywestproductions.com. $25. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through April 27. Wily West Productions presents a short play showcase.
Show Me Yours: Songs of Innocence and Experience Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; www.thealcovetheater.com. $27. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through April 27. New Musical Theater of San Francisco performs a new musical revue written by Pen and Piano, the company’s resident group of writers and composers.
Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through May 18. Self-awareness, self-actualization, self-aggrandizement — for these things we turn to the professionals: the self-empowerment coaches, the self-help authors and motivational speakers. What’s the good of having a “self” unless someone shows you how to use it? Writer-performer Kurt Bodden’s Steve Seabrook wants to sell you on a better you, but his “Better Than You” weekend seminar (and tie-in book series, assorted CDs, and other paraphernalia) belies a certain divided loyalty in its own self-flattering title. The bitter fruit of the personal growth industry may sound overly ripe for the picking, but Bodden’s deftly executed “seminar” and its behind-the-scenes reveals, directed by Mark Kenward, explore the terrain with panache, cool wit, and shrewd characterization. As both writer and performer, Bodden keeps his Steve Seabrook just this side of overly sensational or maudlin, a believable figure, finally, whose all-too-ordinary life ends up something of a modest model of its own. (Avila)
Stuck Elevator American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-85. Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm (no evening performances Sun/21 or April 28). Through April 28. American Conservatory Theater presents the world premiere of Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis’ musical (sung in English with Chinese supertitles) about a Chinese immigrant trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours.
Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma: The Next Cockettes Musical Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through June 1. Thrillpeddlers and director Russell Blackwood continue their Theatre of the Ridiculous series with this 1971 musical from San Francisco’s famed glitter-bearded acid queens, the Cockettes, revamped with a slew of new musical material by original member Scrumbly Koldewyn, and a freshly re-minted book co-written by Koldewyn and “Sweet Pam” Tent — both of whom join the large rotating cast of Thrillpeddler favorites alongside a third original Cockette, Rumi Missabu (playing diner waitress Brenda Breakfast like a deliciously unhinged scramble of Lucille Ball and Bette Davis). This is Thrillpeddlers’ third Cockettes revival, a winning streak that started with Pearls Over Shanghai. While not quite as frisky or imaginative as the production of Pearls, it easily charms with its fine songs, nifty routines, exquisite costumes, steady flashes of wit, less consistent flashes of flesh, and de rigueur irreverence. The plot may not be very easy to follow, but then, except perhaps for the bubbly accounting of the notorious New York flop of the same show 42 years ago by Tent (as poisoned-pen gossip columnist Vedda Viper), it hardly matters. (Avila)
The Arsonists Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $35-60. Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through May 12. There’s a lot of humor to be found in Alistair Beaton’s crackling translation of Max Frisch’s The Arsonists, playing now at the Aurora Theatre, but much of the laughter it elicits is of the nervous variety, as the play’s mostly protagonist, the effete, bourgeois Herr Biedermann (Dan Hiatt) inadvertently signs off on his own destruction when he invites an uncouth arsonist to come and stay in his attic (Michael Ray Wisely). “If we assume everyone is an arsonist, where does that get us?” becomes his standard deflection, as one arsonist becomes two (adding in the unctuous, nihilistic Tim Kniffin), and the empty attic a repository for giant drums of gasoline, a detonator, and fuse wire — arousing the suspicions of a chorus of firefighters (Kevin Clarke, Tristan Cunningham, Michael Uy Kelly), who act as the conscience and guardians of the township. Although on the surface the scenario is patently absurd, the message that passivity in the face of evil is like helping to measure out the fuse wire that will eventually claim your life, is relatively clear. “Not every fire is determined by fate,” point out the firefighters right in the first act. Hiatt, as Biedermann, strikes an admirable balance between loathsome and powerless, while Gwen Loeb shines as his socialite wife, Babette, as does Dina Percia as his agitated housemaid, Anna. (Gluckstern)
Being Earnest Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; www.theatreworks.org. $23-73. Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through April 28. TheatreWorks performs the world premiere of Paul Gordon’s musical take on Oscar Wilde’s comedy.
The Coast of Utopia: Voyage & Shipwreck Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Shipwreck runs Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through May 5. Voyage runs Sat/20, April 27, and May 4, 3pm. Last year in the Shotgun Players’ production of Voyage, the first part of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia trilogy (also playing in repertory through May 4), we were introduced to a tight circle of Russian thinkers and dreamers, chafing against the oppressive regime of Nicholas I. In the second part, Shipwrecked, we find them older, perhaps wiser, struggling to keep their revolutionary ideals alive while also juggling familial concerns and personal passions. Focused mainly on Alexander Herzen (Patrick Kelley Jones) and family, Shipwrecked travels from Russia to Germany, France, Italy, and the English Channel, buffeted from all directions by the forces of the uprisings and burgeoning political consciousness of the European proletariat. It’s an unwieldy, sprawling world that Stoppard, and history, have built (made somewhat more so by the Shotgun production’s strangely languid pace during even the most dramatic sequences) but it’s worth making the effort to spend time absorbing the singular world views of Russian émigré Herzen, his impulsively passionate wife Natalie (Caitlyn Louchard), the cantankerous, influential critic Vissarion Belinsky (Nick Medina), professional rabble-rouser Michael Bakunin (Joseph Salazar) and up-and-coming writer Ivan Turgenev (Richard Reinholdt) as they desperately seek to carve out both their personal identities and a greater, cohesive Russian one from the imperfect turmoil of Western philosophy. (Gluckstern)
Fallaci Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-89. Wed/17 and Sun/21, 7pm (also Sun/21, 2pm); Thu/18-Sat/20, 8pm (also Sat/20, 2pm). Berkeley Rep performs Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright’s new play about Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.
A Killer Story Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thu-Sat, 8pm (pre-show cabaret at 7:15pm). Through May 18. Dan Harder’s film noir-inspired detective tale premieres at the Marsh Berkeley.
Love Letters Various Marin County venues; www.porchlight.net. $15-30. Through April 28. Porch Light Theater performs A.R. Gurney’s romantic play at four different Marin venues; check website for addresses and showtimes.
“Pear Slices” Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear, Mtn View; www.thepear.org. $10-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through April 28. Nine original short plays by members of the Pear Playwrights Guild.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-77. Opens Wed/17, 8pm. Runs Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat and April 25 and May 23, 2pm; no matinee April 27; no show May 24); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2). Through May 26. Mark Wing-Davey directs Berkeley Rep’s take on the Bard.
The Whipping Man Marin Theatre Center, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $36-57. Wed/17, 7:30pm; Thu/18-Sat/20, 8pm (also Sat/20, 2pm); Sun/21, 2 and 7pm. Marin Theatre Company performs the Bay Area premiere of Matthew Lopez’s Civil War drama.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet LAM Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF; www.linesballet.org. Fri/19 and April 26-27, 8pm; Sat/20, 6pm; Sun/21 and April 28, 5pm; April 24-25, 7:30pm. $30-65. The company celebrates its 30th anniversary spring season with a collaboration between choregrapher Alonzo King and composter Edgar Meyer.
“Another Way Home” and “The Fox and the Beast” Joe Goode Annex, 401 Alabama, SF; www.cieloverticalarts.com. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8pm. $18. Cielo Vertical Arts presents a new aerial dance work with music by Jesse Olsen Bay, followed by a new work by Fog Beast.
“Anywhere But Here” SF Community Music Center, 544 Capp, SF; www.goathall.org. Sat/20-Sun/21, 8pm. $15. Goat Hall Productions, San Francisco’s Opera Cabaret Company, presents this show of works by Mozart, Weill, and Menotti.
“The Buddy Club Children’s Shows” Randall Museum, 199 Museum Wy, SF; www.thebuddyclub.com. Sun/21, 11am. $8. Comedy magician Phil Ackerly performs.
“Concert to End Bullying” Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF; ayayale.tix.com. Sat/20, 8pm. $25-150. Stage and screen star Taye Diggs and the Yale Whiffenpoofs join forces for this show benefitting the New Conservatory Theatre Center’s Youth Aware Program.
“Crosscurrent” Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.975howard.com. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8pm. $15. Original dance theater, improvisation, and live music with dancers Daria Kaufman and Bianca Brzezinski, and composer Richard Warp.
CubaCaribe Festival This week: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.cubacaribe.org. Fri/19, 7pm. $35. Next week: Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl. April 26-27, 8pm; April 28, 2 and 7pm. $25. Master artists performing music and dance from the Caribbean Diaspora.
“Goodbye Taxes, Hello Mary Lou” Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF; www.brickandmortarmusic.com. Fri/19, 9pm. $10. Music by Jugtown Pirates, a performance by Salacious Underground Burlesque, and more.
“Mission Position Live” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.
“The Naked Stage” Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.improv.org. Sat, 8pm. Through April 27. $20. BATS Improv performs an improvised stage play.
“The Original Scratch-N-Sniff Variety Show” 50 Mason Social House, 50 Mason, SF; www.questforzest.org. Thu/18, 7pm. $10. Variety show with “scratch-n-sniff elements” between acts.
Red Hots Burlesque El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; www.redhotsburlesque.com. Wed, 7:30-9pm. Ongoing. $5-10. Come for the burlesque show, stay for OMG! Karaoke starting at 8pm (no cover for karaoke).
“Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir: Revolt of the Golden Toad Bay Area Tour” Various Bay Area venues; www.revbilly.com. April 22-27. The performance artist and activist visits the Bay Area for book readings from The End of the World, as well as a variety of performances and direct action events.
“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.
“Sheetal Gandhi: Bahu Beti Biwi” ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8pm; Sun/21, 7pm. $25-35. The North Indian choreographer and performer presents a work that combines dance, vocalization, and percussive text.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk; www.calperformances.org. April 23-27, 8pm (also April 27, 2pm); April 28, 3pm. $30-92. Four programs highlight the company’s annual Cal Performances residancy, including two Bay Area premieres.
“The Divine Game” Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. April 29, 8pm. $20. A spur to thought, to reading, to listening, to sparring over the meaning and magnitude of art — they’re all there in the brilliantly expansive, acute, and sometimes barbed observations of professor Vladimir Nabokov (a delighting, animated John Mercer), as he expounds on the subject of Russian literature in this simply staged but witty, well-honed dramatic reading from First Person Singular and adapter-director Joe Christiano. Presented as part of Shotgun’s Monday night Cabaret series, The Divine Game, drawing verbatim on Nabokov’s Cornell lectures of the 1950s, is an invitation to a heady walk down several byways in the land of great literary art, and there are few more discerning or inspiring guides whether or not you share in every conclusion about the relative merits and demerits of Chekhov (Joshua Han) or Dostoyevsky (Brian Quackenbush) — both of whom appear onstage alongside their idiosyncratic peers Gogol (Colin Johnson) and Tolstoy (Jess Thomas). There’s a frisson of mental joy in a distillation like, “Chekhov’s books are sad books for humorous people,” or the sweet-talking yet penetrating pronouncement that, “Of all the great characters that a great artist creates, his readers are the best,” and their cumulative impact over the course of 90 minutes offers enough inspiration for several reckless bookstore sprees. (Avila)
“Flamencio from Sevilla to Jerez” La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; www.eventbrite.com. Sun/21, 7:30pm. $25-40. Spanish flamenco artists Javier Herida and Kina Menez perform.
“Man, Oh Man!” Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakl; www.oebgmc.org. Sat/20, 7pm; Sun/21, 5:30pm. $15-25. The Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus performs a program of “music written for men to sing,” from chants to a world premiere.