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.
Arcadia ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-95. Previews Thu/16-Sat/18, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2pm); Sun/19, 2pm. Opens Wed/22, 8pm. Runs Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm; May 28 show at 7pm); Sun, 2pm (additional show May 26, 8pm). Through June 9. American Conservatory Theater performs Tom Stoppard’s literary romance.
Birds of a Feather New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25-45. Previews Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2pm); Sun/19, 2pm. Opens Fri/24, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through June 29. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs the San Francisco premiere of Marc Acito’s tale inspired by two gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo.
Burqavaganza Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.brava.org. $20. Opens Thu/16, 8pm. Runs Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through June 2. Brava! For Women in the Arts and RasaNova Theatre present Shahid Nadeem’s Bollywood-style “love story in the time of jihad.”
Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $10-50. Previews Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 5pm. Opens May 23, 7:30pm. Runs Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm; no shows June 8); Sun, 5pm. Through June 16. Cutting Ball Theater performs Andrew Saito’s Howl-inspired portrait of San Francisco.
Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri/17, 8pm; Sat/18, 5pm. Playwright Lynne Kaufman invites you to take a trip with Richard Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass (Warren David Keith), as he recounts times high and low in this thoughtful, funny, and sometimes unexpected biographical rumination on the quest for truth and meaning in a seemingly random life by one of the big wigs of the psychedelic revolution and (with his classic book, Be Here Now) contemporary Eastern-looking spirituality. Directed by Joel Mullennix, the narrative begins with Ram Dass today, in his Hawaiian home and partly paralyzed from a stroke, but Keith (one of the Bay Area’s best stage actors, who is predictably sure and engagingly multilayered in the role) soon shakes off the stiff arm and strained speech and springs to his feet to continue the narrative as the ideal self perhaps only transcendental consciousness and theater allow. Nevertheless, Kaufman’s fun-loving and extroverted Alpert is no saint and no model of perfection, which is the refreshing truth explored in the play, but rather a seeker still, ever imperfect and ever trying for greater perfection or at least the wisdom of acceptance. As the privileged queer child of a wealthy Jewish lawyer and industrialist, Alpert was both insider and outsider from the get-go, and that tension and ambiguity makes for an interesting angle on his life as well as the complexities of his relationships with a homophobic Leary, for instance, and his conservative but ultimately loving father. Perfection aside, the beauty in the subject and the play is the subtle, shrewd cherishing of what remains unfinished. (Avila)
Black Watch Drill Court, Armory Community Center, 333 14th St, SF; www.act-sf.org. $100. Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm. Through June 16. American Conservatory Theater presents the National Theatre of Scotland’s internationally acclaimed performance about Scottish soldiers serving in Iraq.
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.
Dirty Dancing: Live! Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF; dirtydancinglive-fbe.eventbrite.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through May 25. Watermelons will be carried, lifts will be attempted, eyes will be hungry, and nobody better put Baby in a corner.
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.
Last Love Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, SF; www.mojotheatre.com. $17-30. Thu/16-Sun/19, 8pm. Will the apocalypse save us from ourselves? Mojo Theater again raises that question as it presents the second installment in director-playwright Peter Papadopoulos’ Love-Gone-Wrong-at-the-End-of-the-World trilogy, the follow-up to last season’s fertile and funny Lost Love. The story centers on a George and Martha-esque couple, Charles (Jonathan Bender) and Lucida (Kimberly Lester), who on the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary declare all-out war, lobbing younger lovers at each other only to find their new partners (played by an increasingly endearing Michael Saenz and an unexpectedly powerful Gloria McDonald) have a past together and unresolved issues of their own. The grimly romantic comedy returns to, without greatly elaborating on, a familiar fantasy: blowing away the haze of our fractious, insecure, and muddled love lives in the clarifying immediacy of disaster. That this may be more than pure fantasy — that the seemingly discrete realms of personal and political trauma may be in some subtle and profound way connected — is an animating dimension of the trilogy, but here in a more superficial and perfunctory fashion than in Lost Love. The strength of the production lies less in its premise than in the penetrating humor and emotional veracity in Papadopoulos’ sure, heightened dialogue, which is played generally well by the cast and exceptionally so by a vibrantly intelligent Lester, Mojo’s co–artistic director. The staging also benefits, albeit inconsistently, from a stylized approach that revels in self-conscious artifice (including a trio of stage managers from “Command Center Communications,” a video-backdrop by Micah Stieglitz, and some light choreography by Lester). These strengths lend a restless, occasionally inspired production a slow-burning charm, but leave one wondering what might be left when all the dust settles. (Avila)
Little Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.42ndstreetmoon.org. $25-75. Wed/15, 7pm; Thu/16-Fri/17, 8pm; Sat/18, 6pm; Sun/19, 3pm. 42nd Street Moon performs Neil Simon’s outrageous musical.
The Lost Folio: Shakespeare’s Musicals Un-Scripted Theater, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu/16-Sat/18, 8pm. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs a fully-improvised, full-length musical inspired by Shakespeare.
The Merry Wives of Windsor Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton, SF; www.african-americanshakes.org. $10-35. Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 26. They might be two of the town’s most respectable matrons, but Mistresses Page (Safiya Fredericks) and Ford (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong), the titular Merry Wives of Windsor, at the African-American Shakespeare Company, are nobody’s fools. When the bawdy, ne’er-do-well Falstaff (a cross-dressing Beli Sullivan) tries to woo the two at the same time (as much for money as lust), they easily turn the tables on his plotting, and further dampen his ardor by having him tossed in a ditch. Their husbands, in particular the suspicious yet constantly flummoxed Master Ford (Armond Edward Dorsey), fare not much better against the wonder-twin powers of their BFF wives, and for anyone keeping score, the entire female population of Windsor generally makes out better than their slow-on-the-uptake menfolk, and they do it in style thanks to Linda Tucker’s astute, 50s-era costume design. Under Becky Kemper’s direction, the attitude skews sassy, and each character — from the befuddled town elite to the simplest servant — is a broadly-painted stroke of buffoonery, one part Desperate Housewives melodrama and one part Marx Brother’s farce. Kemper calls her rowdy take on this battle-of-the-sexes comedy “a guilty pleasure,” reminding us that however hallowed the name of Shakespeare might remain in posher circles, a good portion of his canon was written not for the austere glory of posterity, but for the base enjoyment of the general populace. (Gluckstern)
“PlayGround Festival of New Works” Various venues, SF and Berk; www.playground-sf.org. $15-40. Through May 26. The long-running short-play contest and development lab marks its 17th season with an evening showcasing the best of the previous year. The six plays come from six (familiar and new) playwrights out of a pool of 36 new short plays developed by PlayGround since October (and those were drawn from over 190 new original scripts created). The best of the best receives a rotating cast of strong Bay Area actors under six accomplished directors (including PlayGround founder Jim Kleinmann) but is a mixed affair, nevertheless. Katie May’s The Spherical Loneliness of Beverly Onion is a sometimes funny but generally tepid short story about a lonely mortician’s assistant (Carla Pantoja) who confronts her handlers, the natural forces of Fate (Jomar Tagatac) and Luck (Anne Darragh). Simple and Elegant, by Evelyn Jean Pine, is an ocean-side fairytale whose themes don’t sound too deeply, about the titular pair of sisters (Rebecca Pingree and Pantoja) who have a near-fatal falling out over a gold coin salvaged from the belly of a fish (Dao) who may be a handsome prince for one of them or just a nice hideaway bed. In Ruben Grijalva’s Value over Replacement, a major league player (Tagatac) confronts a career-jeopardizing accusation from a journalist-guest (Delzell) on his talk radio show in a somewhat prosaic but dramatically compact, carefully written and well-acted piece. Significant People, by Amy Sass, follows two docents (Darragh and Delzell) through the preserved home of two significant others who seem to be the same people. It’s a quirky conceit that doesn’t quite produce the necessary dramatic tension, the stakes feeling too low. In My Better Half, by Jonathan Spector, quirkiness goes full-bore as a wife (Pingree) with a justifiable complaint against her obliviously self-centered, what-me husband (Dao) looks to have him rubbed out by a reluctant hit man (Tagatac) and his couples-therapist colleague (Darragh). Finally, Symmetrical Smack-Down is William Bivins’ funny and nicely orchestrated foursome, in which the dynamic between two antagonists in the wrestling ring (Tagatac and Delzell) overlaps (literally and dramatically) with that between a long-term lesbian couple (Pingree and Pantoja) on the brink of a break-up and/or rumble. (Avila)
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)
Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu/16, 8pm; Sat/18, 8:30pm. 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)
Talk Radio Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush, SF; www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through June 15. Actors Theatre of San Francisco performs Eric Bogosian’s breakthrough 1987 drama.
Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma: The Next Cockettes Musical Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; www.thrillpeddlers.com. $30-35. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Extended through June 29. 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 Waiting Period Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri/17, 8pm; Sat/18, 5pm. 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. Note: review from an earlier run of the same production. (Avila)
Vital Signs: The Pulse of an American Nurse Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sun, 7pm. Through June 16. Registered nurse Alison Whittaker returns to the Marsh with her behind-the-scenes show about working in a hospital.
The World’s Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun, 11am. Through July 21. Louis “The Amazing Bubble Man” Pearl returns after a month-long hiatus with his popular, kid-friendly bubble show.
The Dead Girl Avant Garde, 1328 Fourth St, San Rafael; www.altertheater.org. $25. Wed/15, 7:30pm; Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 3pm. AlterTheater performs 90-year-old playwright Ann Brebner’s new family drama.
A Killer Story Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thu/16-Sat/18, 8pm (pre-show cabaret at 7:15pm). Dan Harder’s film noir-inspired detective tale premieres at the Marsh Berkeley.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-77. Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat and May 23, 2pm; 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.
ACT Master of Fine Arts Program performances ACT’s Hastings Studio Theater, 77 Geary, SF, and ACT’s Costume Shop Theater, 1117 Market, SF; www.act-sf.org. $30 (two shows for $40; three shows for $50). American Conservatory Theater’s acclaimed grad program presents Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9 (Wed/15 and Fri/17, 7:30pm; Sat/18, 2pm); Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo (Thu/16-Sat/18, 7:30pm); and August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (Thu/16 and Sat/18, 7:30pm; Sun/19, 2pm) in repertory.
Ananta Project Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.theanantaproject.org. Fri/17-Sat/18, 8pm. $20. The dance company presents its spring season performances, including two world premieres: The Hush Hush Chronicles and Kittleslip.
“Asia on Stage” SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF; email@example.com. Sat/18, 7pm. $20. Performance program featuring LIKHA Pilipino Folk Ensemble’s Pilgrim, a dance theater work about gay Asian immigrants.
Sandra Bernhard Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF; www.bimbos365club.com. Thu/16-Fri/17, 8pm. $45. The comedian performs her latest show, I Love Being Me, Don’t You?
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sat/18, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
“Cirque de l’Arc” Arc San Francisco, 1500 Howard, SF; cirque2013.eventbrite.com. Thu/16, 6-9pm. $100. Help raise money for the Arc San Francisco, serving adults with developmental disabilities, at this circus-themed party featuring an all-star drag performance and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.
“The Fantasticks” Mission Dolores Academy Auditorium, 3371 16th St, SF; www.16thstreetplayers.org. Sat/18, 7:30pm; Sun/19, 3pm. Free. The 16th Street Players perform the classic musical.
“The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” Kanbar Hall, JCCSF, 3200 California, SF; www.jccsf.org. Sun/19, 7pm. $25. Live musical excerpts from a San Francisco Opera world premiere by Mark Adamo.
“Improvised Murder Mystery” Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason Center, SF; www.improv.org. Sat/18 and May 25, 8pm. $20. BATS Improv performs one of its most popular shows.
“Kunst-Stoff Arts Fest 2013” Kunst-Stoff Arts, One Grove, SF; www.kunst-stoff.org. May 15-June 7. Most events $10-15. Morning classes, afternoon workshops, and evening performances are the focus of this festival of dance, film, music, and more.
Lenora Lee Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, SF; www.deyoungmuseum.org. Fri/17, 7pm. Museum admission $6-10.The multi-disciplinary dance artist and de Young Artist fellow presents a live performance by composer Frances Wong (Miyoshi Sketches) and an excerpt from her own The Escape.
Liss Fain Dance Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.lissfaindance.org. Thu/16-Sat/18, 8pm; Sun/19, 5pm. $15-30. The company presents an encore showing of The Water is Clear and Still, a performance installation that combines dance, music, and spoken text from stories by Jamaica Kincaid.
Ross Matthews Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness, SF; www.theregencyballroom.com. Thu/16, 8pm. $32.50. The TV personality performs stand-up and celebrates the launch of his new book, Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence.
“Mission Position Live” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.
“Mutant Creatures and Unlikely Teachers: Short Plays by Short People” Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, SF; www.stagewright.org. Thu/16, 6:30pm, $10; and Fri/17, 7pm, $50 (fundraiser for StageWright program). StageWright presents plays by fifth graders at Starr King Elementary School, performed by professional actors and museums.
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).
“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.
Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.smuinballet.org. Thu/16-Sat/18, 8pm (also Sat/18, 2pm); Sun/19, 2pm. $24-65. Also May 22-25, 8pm (also May 25, 2pm); May 26, 2pm. $52-68. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View. Also May 31-June 1, 8pm (also June 1, 2pm). $54-70. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic, Walnut Creek. The company presents the West Coast premiere of Helen Pickett’s Petal and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s JAZZIN’, among other works.
“Union Square Live” Union Square, between Post, Geary, Powell, and Stockton, SF; www.unionsquarelive.org. Through Oct 9. Free. Music, dance, circus arts, film, and more; dates and times vary, so check website for the latest.
“Yerba Buena Gardens Festival” Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission between 3rd and 4th Sts, SF; www.ybgfestival.org. Through Oct 15. Free. This week: “Let’s Go Salsa@Jessie” with Anthony Blea y su Charanga (Thu/16, 6-7:30pm); Gamelan Sekar Jaya (Sat/18, 1-2pm).
“Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun” Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. June 3 and 17, 8pm. $15. Shotgun Cabaret presents John Mercer in a series of three stranger-than-fiction dramatic readings.