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.
Sweet Bird of Youth Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.tidestheatre.org. $20-40. Previews Thu/18, 8pm. Opens Fri/19, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Aug 24. Tides Theatre performs Tennessee Williams’ Gulf Coast-set drama about an improbable couple.
A Comedy of Errors Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Previews Fri/19 and Sun/21, 8pm. Opens July 27, 8pm. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Sept 29; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company presents a cowboy-themed spin on the Bard’s classic.
Betrayal Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, Sixth Flr, SF; www.offbroadwaywest.org. $40. Thu/18-Sat/20, 8pm. Off Broadway West Theatre Company performs Harold Pinter’s out-of-sequence drama about an unfaithful married couple.
Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th — the 60s and Beyond Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm. Through Aug 25. Solo performer Don Reed returns with a prequel to his autobiographical coming-of-age hits, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel.
Chance: A Musical Play About Love, Risk, and Getting it Right Alcove Theater, 415 Mason, Fifth Flr, SF; www.thealcovetheater.com. $40-60. Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm); Sun, 5pm. Through July 28. New Musical Theater of San Francisco presents Richard Isen’s world premiere work inspired by the writings of Oscar Wilde.
Endgame Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa, SF; www.itetheater.org. $18-24. Thu/18-Sat/20, 8pm. International Theater Ensemble performs Samuel Beckett’s Theatre of the Absurd classic.
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.
God of Carnage Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.com. $26-38. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through Sept 7. Shelton Theater performs Yasmina Reza’s award-winning play about class and parenting.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma, SF; www.boxcartheatre.org. $27-43. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. John Cameron Mitchell’s cult musical comes to life with director Nick A. Olivero’s ever-rotating cast.
How to Make Your Bitterness Work for You Stage Werx Theatre, 446 Valencia, SF; www.stagewerx.org. $15-25. Mon-Tue, 8pm. Through Aug 27. Kent Underwood is a motivational speaker and self-help expert with some obvious baggage of his own in this solo play from former comedy writer and stand-up comedian Fred Raker (It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life). The premise, similar to that of Kurt Bodden’s Steve Seabrook: Better Than You (ongoing at the Marsh), has the audience overlapping with participants in an Underwood seminar. Underwood, however, two years on the seminar circuit and still unable to get his book published, deviates from the script to answer texts related to a possible career breakthrough. Meanwhile, with the aid of some bullet points and illustrative slides, he explains the premise of said manuscript, “How to Make Your Bitterness Work For You,” as the sad truth of his own underdog status emerges between the laugh lines. But where Bodden is careful to make his Seabrook a somewhat believable character despite the absurdity of it all (or rather, while firmly embracing the absurdity of the self-help industry itself), Raker and director Kimberly Richards put much more space between the playwright/performer and his character, which turns out to be a less effective strategy. Verisimilitude might not have mattered much if the comic material were stronger. Unfortunately, despite the occasional zinger, much of the humor is weak or corny and the narrative (interrupted at regular intervals by an artificial tone representing the arrival of a fresh text message) too contrived to sell us on the larger story. (Avila)
Keith Moon: The Real Me Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.brownpapertickets.com. $40. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 28. Mick Berry performs the world premiere of his solo play about the Who drummer.
A Pinoy Midsummer Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St, SF; www.bindlestiffstudio.org. $10-25. Thu/18-Sat/20, 8pm. It’s the perfect time of year for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but unless you caught Bindlestiff Studio’s irreverent adaptation A Pinoy Midsummer last September, you’ve probably never seen a version quite like it. Conceptualized and directed by Lorna Velasco, A Pinoy Midsummer combines elements of Philippine culture—traditional music, dress, and language—with a rowdy modernist approach to the tale of tradition-bound lovers and the bawdy fairies who would make sport of them and each other. A live score directed by Ogie Gonzales, choreographed interludes by Gemma Calderon, and otherworldly shadow puppetry designed by Melissa Diaz Infante and Marcius Noceda help to flesh out the bare bones production and enhance the action, in particular the intrigues of the mischievous fairy folk. Of the Athenians, it’s star-crossed Hermia (Aureen Almario) and Helena (Julie Kuwabara) who stand out most particularly, and their cat fight over the fickle love of the fairy-enchanted Lysander (Tonilyn A. Sideco) is wickedly funny. But the true highlight of the scrappy production is the band of the rudest mechanicals to ever grace a stage, from the scene-stealing Bottom (Joe Cascasan) to the angry butch Flute (Roczane Enriquez), the fact that they deliver their lines almost entirely in Tagalog not detracting one bit from their brilliant buffoonery, whether you speak the language or not. (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. Update: new episodes began May 15. (Avila)
So You Can Hear Me Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Thu/18-Fri/19, 8pm; Sat/20, 5pm. A 23-year-old with no experience, just high spirits and big ideals, gets a job in the South Bronx teaching special ed classes and quickly finds herself in over her head. Safiya Martinez, herself a bright young woman from the projects, delivers this inspired accounting of her time not long ago in perhaps the most neglected sector of the public school system — a 60-minute solo play that makes up for its relatively slim plot with a set of deft, powerful, lovingly crafted characterizations. These complex portraits, alternately hysterical and startling, offer their own moving ruminations on a violent but also vibrant stratum of American society, deeply fractured by pervasive poverty and injustice and yet full of restive young personalities too easily dismissed, ignored, or crudely caricatured elsewhere. An effervescent, big-hearted, and very talented performer, Martinez’s own bounding personality and contagious passion for her former students (as complicated as that relationship was), makes this deeply felt tribute all the more memorable. (Avila)
Steve Seabrook: Better Than You Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through August 24. 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)
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 July 27. 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 World’s Funniest Bubble Show Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun/21, 11am. Louis “The Amazing Bubble Man” Pearl returns after a month-long hiatus with his popular, kid-friendly bubble show.
Wunderworld Creativity Theater, 221 Fourth St, SF; www.wunderworld.net. $10-15. Sat-Sun, 2pm (also Sat, 11am; Sun, 5pm). Through Aug 11. In an irresistible boost to the the Children’s Creativity Museum’s new Creativity Theater (formerly Zeum), beloved Bay Area comedian, playwright, and performer Sara Moore (Show Ho) teams up with gifted co-writer and performer Michael Phillis (The Bride of Death) and director Andrew Nance for a largely wordless, but gabble-packed, family-friendly comedy that asks what Alice might find down the rabbit hole were she to tumble down it again as an octogenarian? The 60-minute play showcases the elastic features and sharp comedic instincts of both Moore (as a hilarious and heartfelt Alice, whom no one recognizes these days unless she stretches her face smooth again) and Phillis (who kicks things off with a mimed pre-curtain speech deserving of its own encore, before coming back as the now droopy-eared White Rabbit). Equally endearing are performances by Dawn Meredith Smith (as Caterpillar, Red Queen, and a rest home nurse), choreographer Rory Davis (as the Cheshire Cat), and the inimitable Joan Mankin as Alice’s bored nursing-home roommate and the Mad Hatter. (Avila)
The Loudest Man on Earth Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; www.theatreworks.org. $19-73. Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Aug 4. TheatreWorks presents the world premiere of Catherine Rush’s unconventional romantic comedy starring acclaimed actor Adrian Blue, who is deaf.
Oil and Water This week: Arena Theater, 214 Main, Point Arena; www.sfmt.org. $10-15. Wed, 8pm. Also Thu, 7pm, free, Todd Grove Park, Live Oak at Clubhouse, Ukiah; Sat, 8pm, $20, Mateel Community Center, 59 Rusk, Redway. It’s a rough year for mimes, or at any rate for the San Francisco Mime Troupe who, after presenting 53 seasons of free theater in the parks of San Francisco (and elsewhere), faced a financial crisis in April that threatened to shut down this season before it even started. The resultant show, funded by an influx of last-minute donations, is one cut considerably closer to the bone than in previous years. With a cast of just four actors and two musicians, plus a stage considerably less ornate then usual, even the play has shrunk in scale, from one two-hour musical to two loosely-connected one-acts riffing on general environmentalist themes. In Deal With the Devil, a surprisingly sympathetic (not to mention downright hawt) Devil (Velina Brown) shows up to help an uncertain president (Rotimi Agbabiaka) regain his conscience and win back his soul, while in Crude Intentions adorable, progressive, same-sex couple Gracie (Velina Brown) and Tomasa (Lisa Hori-Garcia) wind up catering a “benefit” shindig for the Keystone XL Pipeline giving them the opportunity to perpetrate a little guerilla direct action on a bombastic David Koch (Hugo E Carbajal) with a “mole de petróleo” and a smartphone. Throughout, the performers remain upbeat if somewhat over-extended as they sing, dance, and slapstick their way to the sobering conclusion that the time to turn things around in the battles over global environmental protection is now — or never. (Gluckstern)
Sea of Reeds Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Aug 18. The stage comes unusually populated in this latest from well-known Bay Area monologist and red-diaper baby Josh Kornbluth: a four-piece musical ensemble (El Beh, Jonathan Kepke, Olive Mitra, and Eli Wirtschafter) sits stage right, a standing table with some reed-making equipment appears stage left. Front and center is Kornbluth and his oboe, before him a music stand and behind him three “reeds”—freestanding concave walls of a bamboo-hue (designed by Nina Ball). But there’s more: Kornbluth’s physical trainer (Amy Resnick, replaced by Beth Wilmurt beginning August 7), bounding up from her seat in the first row to lend Kornbluth support or, more productively, prod him in the right direction as he takes the long road home to setting up a promised recital of Bach’s Cantata No. 82. That set up hinges on his recent bar mitzvah, at 52, in Israel, and its unexpected connections between his life-long oboe playing, his Communist upbringing in New York, his mixed marriage, his conversations with a local rabbi, and the Book of Exodus (specifically, Moses’s trail-blazing for the Israelites across the Red Sea, a.k.a., the Sea of Reeds). Although the introduction of supporting characters, musicians, and a musical score (by Marco D’Ambrosio) breaks new ground for the longtime soloist, Sea of Reeds is classic — indeed classical (thanks to a final few tenuous bars from the promised Bach cantata) — Kornbluth. Directed by longtime creative partner David Dower, the show features the boyish comedic persona, the intricate storytelling, and the biographical referents that have given him a loyal following over the years. Diehard fans aside, the show’s cheesy, somewhat self-regarding conceit of staging “spontaneous” interactions between Kornbluth and his trainer may not work with everyone. Perhaps more challenging, though, is the persistence of a less than fully examined disjunction between the political values of his parents and his own political and ethical evolution — a disjunction highlighted here in the narrative’s fraught Middle Eastern setting and its vague navigation between the violence of religious zealotry and a plea for tolerance. (Avila)
The Spanish Tragedy Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Aug 11; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company performs Thomas Kyd’s Elizabethan revenge tragedy.
This Is How It Goes Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison, Berk; www.auroratheatre.org. $32-60. Tue and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm); Wed-Sat, 8pm. Extended through July 28. An awkward love triangle between former high school classmates gets the caustic Neil LaBute treatment in Aurora Theatre Company’s production of This is How it Goes. Not content to merely skewer the familiar battles between the sexes, LaBute further prods his captive audience with the big stick of race relations, and the often unacknowledged prejudices that lurk in the hearts of men. And women. There are no innocents in this play, though each character certainly has moments where they play upon audience sympathies, only to betray them a few inflammatory lines later. As the marriage between the successful yet self-conscious African American alpha male Cody (Aldo Billingslea) and his neurotically placating Caucasian wife Belinda (Carrie Paff) erodes, the mostly affable (and former fat kid) “Man” (Gabriel Marin) insinuates himself in the middle of their troubled relationship, obviously still carrying the torch for Belinda he did 15 years ago — as well as the same wary animosity an unpopular kid carries for the star of the track team, in this case, Cody. All three actors do a very good job of shape-shifting between their middle-class Jekyll and Hyde selves, assisted in part by Marin’s amiable asides, which don’t so much lull the audience as tease them with the idea that things are about to get better, when they can only get worse. (Gluckstern)
The Wiz Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. Wed-Thu and Sat, 7pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, noon and 5pm. Through Aug 25. Berkeley Playhouse travels to Oz with the Tony-winning musical.
BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason, SF; www.improv.org. $20. BATS Improv performs spontaneous shows based on current events (Fri, 8pm, through July 26) and “Improvised Shakespeare” (Sat, 8pm, through July 27).
“Bay Area Playwrights Festival” Thick House Theater, 1695 18th St, SF; www.playwrightsfoundation.org. Fri/19-Sun/21 and July 26-28. $15. Three Bay Area playwrights and three New Yorkers contribute brand-new works to this 36th annual fest. The six plays were chosen from 425 submissions.
“Bitch and Tell: A Real Funny Variety Show” Garage, 715 Bryant, SF; www.ftloose.org. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8pm. $10-20. Tracy Shapiro performs both nights, with guests David Gborie, Mary-Alice McNab, and others.
“Bubbles on Fire Burlesque presents: Mad Women!” Mojo Theatre, 2940 16th St, #217, SF; www.bubblesonfire.com. Fri/19, 8:15pm. $10-20. With MC Patina DeCopper, Alexa Von Kickinface, Candi Fornia, Dolly Dior, and others.
Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sun/21, July 27, Aug 4, 17, and 25, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.
“The Dirt on Dorian Gray” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Fri/19-Sun/21, 8pm. $15-20. Samantha Giron Dance Project presents an examination of “Peter Pan syndrome” via contemporary dance and other elements.
“Dohee Lee: ARA Gut (Ritual of Ocean)” Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. Sat/20, 4-6pm. Free. The artist presents a site-specific performance installation reflecting on the relationship between humans and nature.
“Factory Parts” NOH Space, 2840 Mariposa, SF; www.foolsfury.org. Wed/17-Sun/21 and July 25-28, 8pm. $15. FoolsFURY presents new works-in-progress by 10 cutting-edge theater ensembles, including San Francisco’s Affinity Group and Oakland’s Ragged Wing.
50 Shades! The Musical Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter, SF; www.50shadesmusical.com. July 23-25, 8pm; July 26-27, 6:30 and 9:30pm; July 28, 3pm. $20-65. Musical parody of Fifty Shades of Grey.
“Four Plays” Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF; www.postballet.org. Thu/18-Fri/19, 8pm. $30-50. Post:Ballet presents its fourth annual home season, featuring a world premiere collaboration between choreographer Robert Dekkers, architect Robert Gilson, and other artists.
“Harboring” Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, Marina at Buchanan, SF; www.bandaloop.org. Thu/18, 8:30pm; Fri/19-Sun/21, 8:30pm (also Sat/20, 2pm). $25-100. Vertical dance company Bandaloop performs a site-specific, multi-dimensional work inspired by Fort Mason’s maritime past and present.
“Merola Opera’s Schwaber Summer Concert” Everett Auditorium, 450 Church, SF; www.merola.org. Thu/18, 7:30pm. $25-40. Also Sat/20, 2-4pm, free, Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission between 3rd and 4th Sts, SF; www.ybgfestival.com. The company performs scenes from Don Giovanni and other operas.
“Mission Position Live” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.
“Randy Roberts: Live!” Alcove Theater, 414 Mason, Ste 502, SF; www.thealcovetheater.com. Tue/23, 9pm. $30. The famed female impersonator takes on Cher, Better Midler, and other stars.
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.
“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. *