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 email@example.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.
Candide of California 1620 Gough; www.custommade.org. $10-28. Previews Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm. Opens Tues/17, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through June 4. Custom Made Theatre presents this modernized version of the Voltaire tale, which was a hit at the SF Fringe Festival.
Risk is This…The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival EXIT on Taylor, 227 Taylor; (800) 838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $20-50. Opens Fri/13, 8pm. Runs Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through June 25. Cutting Ball Theater closes its 11th season with a festival of experimental plays, including works by Eugenie Chan, Rob Melrose, and Annie Elias.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear Avenue, Mtn View; (650) 254-1148, www.thepear.org. $15-30. Previews Fri/13, 8pm. Opens Sat/14, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 20. Pear Avenue Theatre presents an adaptation of Mark Twain’s novella.
OPEN. Central Stage, 5221 Central, Richmond; (800) 838-3006, www.raggedwing.org. $15-35. Previews Thurs/12, 8pm. Opens Fri/13, 8pm. Runs Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through June 11. Ragged Wing Ensemble presents a new Bluebeard-inspired play written and directed by Amy Sass.
Absolutely San Francisco Alcove Theater, 414 Mason; 992-8168, www.absolutelysanfrancisco.com. $32-50. Check for dates and times. Open-ended. Not Quite Opera Productions presents a musical.
*Caliente Pier 29, The Embarcadero; 438-2668, www.love.zinzanni.org. $117-145. Wed-Sat, 6pm; Sun, 5pm. Open-ended. Ricardo Salinas, cofounder of famed Mission-born radical Latino comedy trio Culture Clash, penetrates the velvet enclave of Teatro ZinZanni, taking the helm for its latest Euro-style dinner-cirque cabaret show. Under Salinas’ inspired direction, the evening plays as a revolt by brown-hued kitchen and wait staff against a ruthless takeover by, what else, a Chinese conglomerate. Multiculti clashes ensue, with the underdogs led by a brother-sister team played charmingly by ZinZanni regulars Christine Deaver and Robert Lopez, and with much expert repartee and physical humor neatly enveloping characteristically stunning feats of acrobatics and circus arts that leave forkfuls of grub hovering before slack-jawed mouths. I don’t know how many actual kitchen staffers out there can afford the ticket price (though it does come with a tasty five-course meal in addition to a first-class show), but the blend of Salinas and company’s shrewd if subdued social commentary and big-heated Latin-fueled humor—not to mention the exquisite musical numbers featuring guest star Rebekah Del Rio—lead to something altogether harmonious. (Avila)
Cancer Cells The Garage, 975 Howard; 518-1517, www.975howard.com. $15. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 22. Performers Under Stress and directors Geoff Bangs and Scott Baker offer this well-conceived program of late Pinter works, a total of nine plays and poems intelligently arranged and unevenly but in some cases vibrantly performed (especially in the case of One for the Road) in a fleet 90-minute evening. With the titular poem, written as the esteemed playwright was undergoing chemo (and recited here with somewhat unnecessary emotion by Valerie Fachman), a telling definition of cancer cells arises: “They have forgotten how to die/ And so extend their killing life.” Given the unbridled political nature of the work that follows—including the devastatingly stark (yet ever articulate to the point of being unexpected) dramatic vocabulary of Mountain Language, a compact depiction and rumination on state-sponsored genocide—those cancer cells grow out of their literal referent into a literary metaphor for the warping, perverting, and devastating consequences of supreme, unchecked power and its Olympian delusions. Pinter’s late works, written with a pronounced urgency in the face of ever-widening war and genocide, advance his shrewd and potent ability for exposing the obscenity beneath the shell games of language as deployed by power in pursuit of its imperial and totalitarian aims. (Avila)
Devil/Fish 2781 24th St; www.cirquenoveau.com. $26. Fri-Sat, 7pm; Sun, 6pm. Through May 22. Cirque Noveau presents a story involving aerial performance, acrobatics, and more.
Eleanor EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 28. Though it seems fitting that a two-and-a-half-hour long epic about historical diva and queen Eleanor of Aquitane should debut at EXIT Theatre’s DIVAfest, Dark Porch Theatre’s production of Eleanor lacks the charisma of its muse. A confused tangle of unnecessary subplots and under-developed characters, Eleanor tries to fit in an 800-year-old grudge match, a thwarted celestial ascension, political chicanery, assassination, adultery, an existential chess game, a crusade, medieval grrrl power, and the quest for the holy grail into a single show, with decidedly mixed results. On the one hand, Alice Moore as the titular queen is a delicious blend of regal and calculating, and Nathan Tucker as her equally conniving consort, Henry II, makes a surprisingly vital and robust king. The design elements are strong, and Dark Porch Theatre’s trademark live music and physical-movement interludes are cleverly arranged. But on the downside, Eleanor also displays what is gradually becoming another one of DPT’s trademarks, an overly convoluted script in need of major tightening in focus. Playwright/director Margery Fairchild needs to sacrifice a good chunk of bit-player intrigue, and rely more on the strength of her iconic queen, to move the action to an endgame more rewarding than this version’s anti-climactic exile to eternal oblivion. (Gluckstern)
*Geezer Marsh, 1062 Valencia; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thurs, 8pm; Sat, 5pm; Sun, 3pm. Through July 10. The Marsh presents a new solo show about aging and mortality by Geoff Hoyle.
Hugh Jackman, in Performance at the Curran Theatre Curran Theatre, 445 Geary; (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com. $40-150. Tues-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through May 15.The shout that went up the moment he came onstage was enough to let you know this entertainer could do no wrong with this audience. But perhaps just to be on the safe side, Hugh Jackman immediately began courting the 1700 people packed into the Curran from the front rows to the balcony, speaking to many individually, embracing one or two, bringing some onstage, or just flashing them his leading-man smile. Jackman’s limited and exclusive San Francisco engagement, courtesy of producer Carole Shorenstein Hays, wasn’t my cup of tea, or whatever they drink Down Under, but devotees of the Aussie star from Hollywood (X-Men) and Broadway (The Boy from Oz) got the love-fest they wanted. And the multifaceted actor is all pro, likeable and impressive even amid the cheesier aspects of a throwback form: a song-and-dance varietal in an old-school showbiz vein, featuring much personal and professional reminiscing, joking around (including tussles with his personal trainer [Steve Lord] over a dancing prohibition in the buff-up period before his next Wolverine pic), musical routines, and somewhat incongruous medleys backed by an 18-piece band (under direction of Patrick Vaccariello) and flanked by Broadway talents Merle Dandridge (Rent, Spamalot, Aida) and Angel Reda (Wicked). (Avila)
Loveland The Marsh, Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Through June 4. Ann Randolph’s popular one-woman show about a misfit returning to Ohio from L.A. extends its run.
*Lucky Girl EXIT Studio, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 28. Honey (Cheryl Smith) talks about “the shoes” first, the shoes repeatedly, against even her analyst’s power to retain a common interest in the footwear of her attacker. Why should she so concern herself with this detail of the man who assaulted her, wounding her in ways too subtle and deep to measure—unless through the wayward precision of the poetical imagination some measure might actually be taken. That is the force and beauty of Lucky Girl, a notable new stage adaptation by Tom Juarez of poet Frances Driscoll’s 1997 collection, The Rape Poems, which premieres as part of Exit Theatre’s DIVAfest 2011. Juarez crafts an engagingly dynamic and delicate narrative arc from Driscoll’s thematically joined but otherwise disparate poems, gorgeously formulated verses that delve into a devastating subject with an unexpected range of humor, insight, and compassion. This supple range is acutely grasped and exquisitely interpreted by Smith, whose gripping performance (keenly directed by Kathryn Wood) eschews anything remotely sentimental for a complex and moving portrait of the enduring aftermath of terror. (Avila)
A Most Notorious Woman EXIT Stage Left, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through May 28. The axiom “well-behaved women seldom make history” comes to mind when watching a reenactment of the strange but true tale of the meeting between renegade pirate “queen” Grace O’Malley and Queen Elizabeth I. Both exceptionally powerful women in their day, they must surely have found some novel comfort in the presence of the other. Christina Augello plays both divas for DIVAfest with swashbuckling verve in Maggie Cronin’s historical drama, A Most Notorious Woman. Also inhabiting several bit characters along the way, Augello infuses Grace with a matter-of-fact, workaday groundedness, while her Elizabeth is all fuss and neuroses, chattering away to “Leicester” on a thoroughly modern cell-phone while plotting political intrigues. Watching Augello shift between the two strong-willed characters is the production’s greatest pleasure, along with some clever set and costuming flourishes courtesy of John Mayne and Laura Hazlett. There are some awkwardly-paced attempts at shadowplay which interrupt the overall flow, and the presence of an omniscient narrator, a sea-queen wrapped in kelp, is a puzzling distraction, but as staged history lessons of ill-behaved women go, Notorious is both informative and entertaining. (Gluckstern)
Party of 2 — The New Mating Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; (800) 838-3006, www.partyof2themusical.com. $27-29. Fri, 9pm. Open-ended. A musical about relationships by Shopping! The Musical author Morris Bobrow.
The Real Americans The Marsh MainStage, 1062 Valencia; 282-3055, www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm (also July 10, 17, and 24, 2pm). Through July 24. Dan Hoyle’s popular show about city and small-town life, directed by Charlie Varon, continues its run.
Secret Identity Crisis SF Playhouse, Stage 2, 533 Sutter; 869-5384, www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Sat/14. Un-Scripted Theater Company presents a story about unmasked heroes.
Shopping! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; (800) 838-3006, www.shoppingthemusical.com. $27-29. Sat, 8pm. Open-ended. A musical comedy revue about shopping by Morris Bobrow.
Silk Stockings Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. $24-44. Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm. Through May 22. 42nd Street Moon presents a Cole Porter production.
A Streetcar Named Desire Actors Theatre, 855 Bush; 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through June 4. Actors Theatre of San Francisco presents the Tennessee Williams tale.
Talking With Angels Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $21-35. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through May 21. A play by Shelley Mitchell set in Nazi-occupied Hungary.
*Vice Palace: The Last Cockettes Musical Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome, 575 10th St; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-35. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm. Through July 31. Hot on the high heels of a 22-month run of Pearls Over Shanghai, the Thrillpeddlers are continuing their Theatre of the Ridiculous revival with a tits-up, balls-out production of The Cockettes’ last musical, Vice Palace. Loosely based on the terrifyingly grim “Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, part of the thrill of Palace is the way that it weds the campy drag-glamour of Pearls Over Shanghai with the Thrillpeddlers’ signature Grand Guignol aesthetic. From an opening number set on a plague-stricken street (“There’s Blood on Your Face”) to a charming little cabaret about Caligula, staged with live assassinations, an undercurrent of darkness runs like blood beneath the shameless slapstick of the thinly-plotted revue. As plague-obsessed hostess Divina (Leigh Crow) and her right-hand “gal” Bella (Eric Tyson Wertz) try to distract a group of stir-crazy socialites from the dangers outside the villa walls, the entertainments range from silly to salacious: a suggestively-sung song about camel’s humps, the wistful ballad “Just a Lonely Little Turd,” a truly unexpected Rite of Spring-style dance number entitled “Flesh Ballet.” Sumptuously costumed by Kara Emry, cleverly lit by Nicholas Torre, accompanied by songwriter/lyricist (and original Cockette) Scrumbly Koldewyn, and anchored by a core of Thrillpeddler regulars, Palace is one nice vice. (Gluckstern)
Cripple of Inishmaan Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley Campus, Berk; (510) 642-9988, www.calperformances.org. $68. Wed/11-Fri/13, 8pm; Sat/14, 2 and 8pm. The Irish theater company Druid presents a send-up of rural Irish life, written by Martin McDonagh.
Disassembly La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; www.impacttheatre.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (through June 11). Impact Theatre presents the world premiere of a dark comedy by Steve Yockey.
East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. Sat, 8:30pm; Sun, 7pm (except Sat/14, 8pm). Through June 18. Don Reed’s one-man solo show extends its run.
Lady With All the Answers Center REPertory Company, Lesher Center for the Arts, Knight Stage 3 Theatre, 1601 Civic Center, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-SHOW, www.centerrep.org. $45. Thurs-Sat, 8:15pm; Sun, 2:15pm. Through Sun/15. Center REPpresents Kerri Shawn’s one-woman play about Ann Landers.
Not a Genuine Black Man The Marsh Berkeley, TheaterStage, 2120 Allston, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Thurs, 7:30pm. Through June 16. Brian Copeland’s solo show about Bay Area history continues its successful run.
Passion Play Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 649-5999, www.aeofberkeley.org. $10-15. Fri-Sat, 7pm (also Sun/15, 2pm). Through May 21. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley presents the West Coast premiere of a time-travel play by Sarah Ruhl.
Three Sisters Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-73. Check for dates and times. Through May 22. Berkeley Rep presents a new version of Chekhov’s 1901 play by Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room, Eurydice), directed by Les Waters. The language sounds generally and pleasingly modern in the mouths of the titular Prozorov sisters—Olga (Wendy Rich Stetson), Masha (Natalia Payne), and Irina (Heather Wood)—although the production is rather traditional in staging (period set by Annie Smart, and corresponding costumes by Ilona Somogyi). We follow the restless siblings and their flock of soldier-admirers through a handful of years in their provincial town, where their late father was an elite military officer. In this period, the dashing officer Vershinin (Bruce McKenzie) brings a spark of new life—especially to the unhappily married Masha—and stokes the sisters’ ultimately unanswered desire to return to their beloved Moscow. The production breathes a good deal of life into the play, whose half-foolish and heartbreakingly funny characters so palpably exude a complex set of longings and misplaced desires, but it labors under an initial stiffness and a somewhat jagged set of performances. (Payne’s twitchy Masha, for instance, whose features maintain throughout a look of unwelcome surprise, feels incongruent at times). Some of the more moving turns concentrate here in the supporting characters, including James Carpenter as Chebutykin, the fawning old doctor who has forgotten all he used to know; Thomas Jay Ryan as Tuzenbach, the self-conscious Russian of German descent desperately smitten with Irina; and Alex Moggridge as the sisters’ much put-upon, feckless, alternately gentle and petulant brother, Andrei. (Avila)
The World’s Funniest Bubble Show The Marsh Berkeley, Cabaret, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Through July 10. The Amazing Bubble Man performs.
Bay Area Black Comedy Competition Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakl; www.blackcomedycompetition.com. Sat/14, 8pm. $25-45. Don “D.C.” Curry hosts the finals of the competition
Boars Head Cafe Royale, 800 Post; 641-6033. Mon/16, 7:30pm. Free. SF Theater Pub revisits Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays.
Cabaret Lunatique Pier 29 on the Embarcadero; 438-2668, www.love.zinzanni.org. Sat/14, 11:15pm. $25-25. Teatro ZinZanni’s cabaret presents “Celebrate the Mission,” the third of nine performances focusing on specific neighborhoods.
The Devil-Ettes Present…Go Go Mania! Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell; 861-2011, www.devilettes.com. Fri/13, 9pm. $10. A night of burlesque and rock.
DIVAfest EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy; 673-3847, www.theexit.org. Through May 28. Check for times and prices. Plays and performances by women artists, including Maggie Cronin, Christina Augello, Margery Fairchild, and Diane DiPrima.
Gods of San Francisco Shotwell Studios, 3252 19th St; Fri-Sat, 8pm (through May 21). $15-20. Ko Labs presents a one-act musical about a mother and daughter in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake.
Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock Show Park Library,1950 Page; 355-5656, www.sfpl.org. Thurs/12, 11am. (Also Bernal Heights Library, 500 Cortland; 355-5663, www.sfpl.org. Thurs/12, 3:30pm.) Free. A free performance that is part of a two-week residency.
Katya Takes You Home Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida; www.russianoperadiva.com. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Tues/17, 8pm; Sun/22, 4pm). Through May 22. $20-30. Katya Smirnoff-Skyy presents an original cabaret.
SF Merionettes Synchronized Swimming Show Balboa Pool, 51 Havelock; (206) 240-0488, www.sf-merionettes.org. Sun/15, 5pm. $10 (suggested donation). The team of swimmers from eight to 17 holds an exhibition of 2011 routines.
Theatresports and Improvised Noir Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center; 474-6776, www.improv.org. Fri-Sat, 8pm (through May 28). $17-20. BATS Improv Theatre presents competition and noir performances.
Lilias White Fairmont Hotel, Venetian Room, 950 Mason; 392-4400, www.bayareacabaret.org. $45. The singer pays tribute to Cy Coleman with “My Guy Cy.”
Words and Voices: Litquake Tribute to Gertrude Stein Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission and 3rd; 543-1718, www.ybca.org. Tues/17, 12:30pm. Free. One of 90 events at this year’s Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.
Yale Glee Club Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter; 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com. Sat/14, 8pm. $75-125. The club is joined by Darren Criss and the SFGC Alumnae Chorus for a performance benefiting No Bully and YouthAware.
Alameda Children’s Musical Theatre Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High, Alameda; (510) 521-6965, www.acmtkids.org. Fri/13, 7:30pm; Sat/14, 2 and 7:30pm. $7-13. A production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Sara Kraft.
CubaCaribe Festival Dance Mission, 3316 24th; 273-4633, www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 7pm. $10-24. A program including performances by Colette Eloi’s El Wah Movement and Danys Pérez’s Oyu Oro.
Copious Dance Theater Z Space, 450 Florida; www.copiousdance.org. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm; Sun/15, 5pm. $18. The company brings four works to the stage, including Portals of Grace, Little Voices, and Secret’s Lament.
Luminous Connections Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon; 695-5720, www.sfsota.org. Fri/13-Sat/14, 8pm. $14-24. San Francisco School of the Arts Pre-Professional Dance Program presents a dance concert, under the direction of Elvia Marta.
Moveable Feast The Garage SF, 975 Howard; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. Wed/11, 8pm. $10-20. Tanya Bello’s Project. B. presents a full-evening show.
Smuin Ballet Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission; 978-2787, www.ybca.org. Wed/11-Fri/13, 8pm; Sat/14, 2 and 8pm; Sun/15, 2pm. $20-62. Smuin Ballet presents a spring program, including choreography by Choo-San Goh, Amy Seiwert, and Michael Smuin.
Company C Contemporary Ballet Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-SHOW, www.lesherartscenter.org. Fri/13, 8pm; Sat/14, 2 and 8pm. $15-40. The company presents three world premieres.
Savage Jazz Dance and Napoles Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts Theatre, 1428 Alice, Oakl; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. Thurs/12-Sat/14, 8pm. $5-25. The companies present “Gonzo,” which includes three world premieres by Savage Jazz Dance Company.