Theater Listings: August 21 – 27, 2013

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 listings@sfbg.com.

THEATER

OPENING

American Dream New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $35-45. Previews Wed/21-Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sept 15. A recently divorced and recently out architect falls in love with his Spanish teacher — and tries to bring him from Mexico to California — in this world premiere by Brad Erickson at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market, SF; www.shnsf.com. $45-210. Opens Wed/21, 8pm. Runs Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, Aug 28, and Aug 30, 2pm); Sun/25, 1 and 6:30pm. Through Aug 31. The Aussie movie-turned-musical about road-tripping drag queens rolls into San Francisco for a limited engagement.

BAY AREA

Good People Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller, Mill Valley; www.marintheatre.org. $37-58. Previews Thu/22-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 7pm. Opens Tue/27, 8pm. Runs Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Aug 31 and Sept 14, 2pm; Sept 5, 1pm); Wed, 7:30pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Sept 15. Marin Theatre Company performs the Bay Area premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Broadway triumph about class and poverty.

Other Desert Cities Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro, Mtn View; www.theatreworks.org. $19-73. Previews Wed/21-Fri/23, 8pm. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Runs Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2 and 7pm. Through Sept 15. TheatreWorks performs Jon Robin Baitz’s family dramedy, a Broadway hit making its regional premiere here.

ONGOING

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. Extended through Sept 8. (Runs Sept 14-Oct 27 at the Marsh Berkeley.) Don Reed’s new show offers more stories from his colorful upbringing in East Oakland in the 1960s and ’70s. More hilarious and heartfelt depictions of his exceptional parents, independent siblings, and his mostly African American but ethnically mixed working-class community — punctuated with period pop, Motown, and funk classics, to which Reed shimmies and spins with effortless grace. And of course there’s more too of the expert physical comedy and charm that made long-running hits of Reed’s last two solo shows, East 14th and The Kipling Hotel (both launched, like this newest, at the Marsh). Can You Dig It? reaches, for the most part, into the “early” early years, Reed’s grammar-school days, before the events depicted in East 14th or Kipling Hotel came to pass. But in nearly two hours of material, not all of it of equal value or impact, there’s inevitably some overlap and indeed some recycling. Reed, who also directs the show, may start whittling it down as the run continues. But, as is, there are at least 20 unnecessary minutes diluting the overall impact of the piece, which is thin on plot already — much more a series of often very enjoyable vignettes and some painful but largely unexplored observations, wrapped up at the end in a sentimental moral that, while sincere, feels rushed and inadequate. (Avila)

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.

In Friendship: Stories By Zona Gale Z Below, 470 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. $20-50. Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Sept 8. Word for Word performs Zona Gale’s “comedy of American manners.”

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.

Gold Rush! The Un-Scripted Barbary Coast Musical Un-Scripted Theater Company, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thu/22-Sat/24, 8pm. The Un-Scripted Theater Company performs an improvised musical about gold-rush era San Francisco.

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/26-Tue/27, 8pm. 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)

Marius Southside Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; www.generationtheatre.com. $20-35. Thu/22-Sat/24, 8pm; Sun/25, 3pm. GenerationTheatre performs R. David Valayre’s new English translation of Marcel Pagnol’s classic about a man who dreams of traveling the seas.

Oil and Water Dolores Park, 19th St at Dolores, SF; www.sfmt.org. Free (donations accepted). Sept 2, 2pm. 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 guerrilla 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)

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)

So You Can Hear Me Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $15-50. Fri/23, 8pm; Sat/24, 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 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 boasts a bounding personality and contagious passion for her former students (as complicated as that relationship was), and 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/24, 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)

Sweet Bird of Youth Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter, Second Flr, SF; www.tidestheatre.org. $20-40. Wed/21-Sat/24, 8pm. Tides Theatre performs Tennessee Williams’ Gulf Coast-set drama about an improbable couple.

BAY AREA

All’s Well That Ends Well Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. Opens Sat/24, 8pm. Presented in repertory Fri-Sun through Sept 28; visit website for performance schedule. Marin Shakespeare Company continues its outdoor season with the Bard’s classic romance.

A Comedy of Errors Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Bella, Dominican University of California, San Rafael; www.marinshakespeare.org. $20-37.50. 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.

Lady Windermere’s Fan Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda; www.calshakes.org. $35-62. Tue-Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sept 7, 2pm); Sun, 4pm. Through Sept 8. California Shakespeare Theater performs Oscar Wilde’s comedy.

No Man’s Land Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $35-135. Tue and Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Thu and Sat, 2pm; no matinee Aug 29); Wed, 7pm (also Aug 28, 2pm); Sun/25, 2pm. Through Aug 31. A rare night at the theater unfurls with a bare, elusive minimum of plot and a maximum of subtlety as Harold Pinter’s snaky 1975 drama receives something like a perfect production in the hands of director Sean Mathias and a cast comprised of internationally renowned stage (and film) veterans Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, flanked by theater stalwarts Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley. Stewart is Hirst — an initially laconic and feeble, later voluble and hearty poet and man of letters — famous, world weary, and looked after by two forbidding caretakers, the principal (played by Crudup) an aspiring poet himself. McKellen is Spooner, a down-at-heel but lithe and self-aggrandizing poet himself, whom Hirst as invited into his home for an indeterminate stay that is a source of unrelieved tension between all four characters. Through two fascinating acts, the desperation, power plays, and badinage ensuing among them imbues the strange semi-circular room they exclusively inhabit with a giddy, forlorn, fractious atmosphere. The physical and vocal command of the actors, meanwhile, gorgeously underscores the play’s perverse tacking across an ocean of discourse and questionable memory, passed fear and mutual antagonism, toward the outer limits of language, where some inner landscape looms marked by a steady state of numbing, narcotic emptiness. Hunting down a ticket for the Broadway-bound UK production, now up at Berkeley Rep, may be a challenge but it’s well worth the effort, since not often can one catch a production this sure of Pinter’s language and theatrical imagination. (Avila)

Orlando Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.theatrefirst.com. $10-30. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Sept 15. TheatreFIRST performs Sarah Ruhl’s gender-shifting comedy, which takes place over a span of 300 years.

The Wiz Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berk; www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. $17-60. Wed/21-Thu/22 and Sat/24, 7pm (also Sat/24, 2pm); Sun/25, noon and 5pm. The first time I saw the movie version of The Wiz with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne (among others) it pretty much blew my young, Wizard of Oz-loving mind, swapping funky R&B for syrupy ballads, sophisticated silver pumps in place of the familiar sequined red ones, and mean city streets and subways in place of the more bucolic surroundings of the 1939 Victor Fleming film. Unfortunately, from a certain perspective, the 1970s feel just about as dated today as the 1930s, and consequently The Wiz doesn’t seem quite as innovative as it once did. And while there are some nods to the political climate of today made by the creative team behind the Berkeley Playhouse’s production (such as a pair of almost randomly-wielded rainbow flags, and a handful of t-shirts printed with peace-and-love messages), they mostly steer clear of making any kind of overt statements, even in regards to the all black casting (now thoroughly integrated). Similarly, many of the trappings of the “seventies” have also been axed in favor of more fanciful, almost cartoonish, costuming and choreography. It’s long for a children’s musical, clocking in at around two-and-a-half hours, but that seems no deterrent to the plucky Wiz Kidz youth ensemble who tread the floorboards as a pack of munchkins, a band of sweatshop laborers, and a groovy bunch of glammed-up citizens of the Emerald City. Grown-up voices of special note belong to Taylor Jones as Dorothy, Nicole Julien as Aunt Em/Glinda, Amy Lizardo as Addaperle, Reggie D. White as Tin Man, and Sarah Mitchell as Evillene. (Gluckstern)

PERFORMANCE/DANCE

“Bare Bones Butoh: Showcase #26” Studio 210, 3435 Cesar Chavez, SF; bobwebb20@hotmail.com. Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm. $5-20 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Showcase of Butoh works-in-progress, improv, and more featuring Ronnie Baker, Shelley Cook, Martha Matsuda, Hannah Sim, Bob Webb, and others.

BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, B350 Fort Mason, SF; www.improv.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm. $20. The company’s 19th annual Summer Improv Festival continues with “Duoprov Championship” (Fri/23-Sat/24) and “Choose Your Own Adventure” (Aug 30-31).

Jason Brock Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.ticketweb.com. Thu/22, 8pm. $25. The X Factor finalist and Bay Area local performs his new show, “San Francisco Razzle-Dazzle.”

Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sun/25, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.

“Comikaze Lounge” Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; www.stefanisilvermancomedy.com. Wed/21, 8pm. Free. Comedy with Kate Willett, Greg Asdourian, Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Kelly Annekan, Juan Carlos, Trevor Hill, and host Stefani Silverman.

“Cynic Cave” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; cyniccave.tumblr.com. Fri/23, 8 and 10pm. $12. Comedy with Sean O’Connor and Kevin O’Shea (both shows), plus George Chen (8pm) and Casey Ley (10pm).

Pablo Francisco Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus, SF; www.cobbscomedyclub.com. Thu/22-Fri/23, 8pm (also Fri/23, 10:15pm); Sat/24-Sun/25, 7:30pm (also Sat/24, 9:45pm). $25. The comedian, noted for his impressions, performs his latest stand-up show.

“Mission Position Live” Cinecave, 1034 Valencia, SF; www.missionpositionlive.com. Thu, 8pm. Ongoing. $10. Stand-up comedy with rotating performers.

Chris Moran San Francisco Playhouse Theatre, 450 Post, SF; www.refertochristopher.com. Sun/25, 6pm, $5. Stand-up comedy special taping with opener Adrian McNair.

“ODC Theater Unplugged” ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Sun/25, 6pm. $20. This work-in-progress performance by Pearl Marill and Hope Mohr marks the culmination of a two-week shared residency for the artists.

“Okeanos Intimate” Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, SF; www.capacitor.org. Sat, 7pm. Through Sept 28. $20-30 (free aquarium ticket with show ticket). Dance-circus company Capacitor presents a family-friendly series of performances inspired by the ocean. Each show features a pre-performance talk by a marine biologist or oceanographer.

“Performing Diaspora Festival” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thu/22-Sun/25, 8pm. $20-30 sliding scale. With Jewlia Eisenberg, Muisi-kongo Malonga, and Nadhi Thekkek.

“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.

“Sneak Peek at the Fringe” Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.sffringe.org. Sat/24, 8pm. Free. The SF Fringe Festival is coming in September; here’s your chance to catch some excerpts of local entries in advance.

“Under the Influence” Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF; www.emtab.org. Fri/23, 7:30pm. $5 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Four artists perform work by one of their major influnces, followed by an original work inspired by that influence. Participants include Ariana Weckstein (influence: Jonathan Safran Foer) and Nathan Keele Springer (influence: Mark Linkous).

“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.

BAY AREA

“My Own Fairytale” Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. Fri/23-Sat/24, 8pm. $15-30. Leslie Noel presents a workshop performance of her new musical about heartbreak, love, and betrayal.

“Pleasure and Pain Summer Pops Annual Fundraiser Concert” Odell Johnson Theater, Laney College, 900 Fallon, Oakl; www.oebgmc.org. Sat/24, 6:30pm. $50-75. The Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus performs pop selections from the 1920s to the present; proceeds benefit the chorus and its community outreach efforts. *