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. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks. For complete listings, see www.sfbg.com.
Joyful Noise: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas Southside Theater, Fort Mason Center; 345-7575, www.LHTSF.org. $25-50. Previews Fri/10, 8pm. Opens Sat/11, 8pm. Call for dates and times. Through Dec 31. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre presents a rechristened version of their Black Nativity production.
Siddhartha, the Bright Path The Marsh Studio Theater, 1074 Valencia; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $15-35. Previews Sat/11-Sun/12, 3pm; Thurs/16, 7:30pm. Opens Dec 17, 7:30pm. Call for dates and times. Through Jan 9. Marsh Youth Theater presents a holiday celebration, directed by Lisa Quoresimo.
Arabian Nights Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2549, www.berkeleyrep.org. $34-73. Opens Sat/11, 8pm. Call for dates and times. Through Dec 30. Tony-winning Mary Zimmerman’s production makes a return to Berkeley Rep.
A Christmas Carol Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek; (925) 943-7469, www.centerREP.org. Previews Thurs/9, 8pm; Fri/10, 11am and 7:30pm. Opens Sat/11, 2pm and 7:30pm. Call for dates and times. Through Dec 19.Center REP presents the holiday classic.
Absolutely San Francisco Phoenix Theater Annex, 414 Mason, 4th floor; 433-1235, www.absolutelysanfrancisco.com. $28. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Karen Hirst’s one-person musical about lost love.
Babes in Arms Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson; 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org. $24-44. Wed, 7pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 6pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 19. 42nd Street Moon presents John Guare’s adaptation of the musical by Rodgers and Hart.
Christmas in Hell: The Real and True Story About the Guys Who Saved Christmas Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. An original holiday play, written and directed by Jim Fourniadis.
Caligari Studio 385, 385A Eighth St; www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-30. Fri, 8pm. Through Fri/10. Promising new company HurlyBurly stages its adaptation of the 1920 German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in a Soma bondage club with productive and not-so-productive results. Production values are enjoyably thoughtful (including lighting designer Amanda Ortmayer’s moody use of small portable lights, laser pointers, and snatches of pure, delicious darkness) as the audience mills around a cement room in which actors stand or lie frozen, and in some cases encased, like some macabre wax museum. Daniel Korth’s script makes up in clever, fluid dialogue what it can lack in narrative coherence. But the doom-clouded storyline, featuring a fated romance between an ardent young man (a likeable Eddie Barol) and his somewhat aloof object of desire (a nicely detached yet powerful Shay Wisniewski), is familiar enough in sporadic outline that this isn’t a big deal. The play demands a certain over-the-top performance style, however, which few of co-directors Korth and Mikka Bonel’s otherwise capable actors really carry off (Gerri Lawlor is one of the more notable exceptions). The freedom to walk around the space as action unfolds on surrounding stages (or inaction in cages) is a visual and atmospheric plus. The production’s real limit is that its neo-expressionist dark-carnival invention comes across at times as too borrowed, as when a late-era Tom Waits song is heard. At least it wasn’t one from The Black Rider. (Avila)
Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Horse and Man White Big Top, adjacent to AT&T Park; www.cavalia.net. $39.50-239.50. Check website for shows and times. Through Sun/12. Over 100 performers, including 50 horses, take the stage in this circus-like show from Montreal.
Christian Cagigal’s Obscura: A Magic Show EXIT Cafe, 156 Eddy; 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-25. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Magician Christian Cagigal presents a mix of magic, fairy tales, and dark fables.
Cinderella African American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-30. Fri/8pm; Sat, 3 and 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 19. African-American Shakespeare Company presents the classic fairytale, starring Velina Brown.
Cora Values’ Christmas Corral Exit Cafe, 156 Eddy; 673-3847, www.brownpapertickets.com. $15-25. Fri-Sat, 8:30pm. Through Sat/11. There are Christmas Carol’s and then there are Christmas Carol’s. There are the no-expenses spared varieties with clever rigging and fabulous costumes and larger-than-life characterizations of those classic Christmastide archetypes—the lonely bastard, the beatific poor man, the lovable child. There are the more modest productions, community theatre affairs, with A-for-effort, fun-for-the-whole-family, casual appeal. And then there’s the Cora Values treatment, which throws the whole silly notion of family togetherness out the window and instead throws a party for the orphans of the holiday season—the bah-humbuggers and true unbelievers. In this rock-bottom budget “illiterary
adaptation” of Dickens’ classic in “the most authentic form we know how” a ragtag crew from the Gas ‘N’ Gulp in Rectal, Texas, bumble through a singular interpretation of the tale, punctuated by original comic songs penned by Cora (Sean Owens) and Emmett Cornpike (Don Seaver). Sticklers for textual authenticity or political correctness may cringe at the chorus of the solo song by Tiny Tim (Amanda Ortmayer), “This Won’t Be Another Lame Holiday,” but Dickens wrote a few head-scratching lines himself. Take this description of Marley’s face appearing in Scrooge’s doorknocker: “It&ldots;had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.” “Charles Dickens’ immortal text” Cora remarks dryly. You said it sister. (Gluckstern)
Dirty Little Showtunes! A Parody Musical Revue New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $24-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Jan 16. Tom Orr’s adults-only holiday show returns, with direction by F. Allen Sawyer and musical direction by Scrumbly Koldewyn.
Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission; www.ticketfly.com. $25. Thurs-Sat, 7 and 9pm. Through Dec 23. Heklina, Cookie Dough, Matthew Martin, and Pollo Del Mar return with their stage tribute to the sitcom.
The Lion in Winter Actors Theatre, 855 Bush; 345-1287, www.ticketweb.com. $26-38. Wed-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Actors Theatre of SF presents James Goldman’s play of palace intrigue.
Match Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa; 1-866-811-4111, www.matchonstage.com. $12-28. Thurs-Sun, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Expression Productions presents Stephen Belber’s new suspense drama.
The Oddman Family Christwanzaakuh Spectactular! Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Guerrilla Rep and Beards Beards Beards present a new twisted musical farce.
Party of 2 – The New Mating Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter; (800) 838-3006, www.partyof2themusical.com. $27-29. Sun, 3pm. Open-ended. A musical about relationships by Shopping! The Musical author Morris Bobrow.
*Pearls Over Shanghai Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome, 575 Tenth St; 1-800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $30-69. Sat, 8pm. Through April 9. Thrillpeddlers’ acclaimed production of the Cockettes musical continues its successful run.
A Perfect Ganesh New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness; 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org. $22-40. Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Dec 19. New Conservatory Theatre Center presents the Terrence McNally play, directed by Arturo Catricala.
Ruth and the Sea Stage Werx Theatre, 533 Sutter; www.ruthandthesea.com. $18-24. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Wily West Productions presents Gwyneth Richards in a kooky holiday show, directed by Stuart Bousel.
Shrek The Musical Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market; (888) SHN-1799, www.shnsf.com. $30-99. Tues, 8pm, Wed, 2 and 8pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 2pm (no performances Dec 24, Dec 25, and Dec 31). Through Jan 2. Eric Petersen stars in the stage version of the animated blockbuster.
A Tale of Two Genres SF Playhouse, Stage Two, 533 Sutter; www.un-scripted.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 3pm; additional shows Dec 20-23). Through Dec 23. Un-Scripted Theater Company performs an improvised musical in the style of Charles Dickens.
The Tempest Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor; 1-800-838-3006, www.cuttingball.com. $15-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Dec 19. In Cutting Ball’s latest foray into Shakespearean realms, three entangled subplots and eleven characters are enacted by just three actors, in order to explore the relationships between the principle characters by representing their internal characteristics through the actions of the more minor roles. Set on an enchanted island (or, in Cutting Ball’s interpretation, at the bottom of a swimming pool) The Tempest begins with stormy weather, but quickly grows into a full-blown hurricane of shipwrecked nobles, nymphs, and drunks, plus the turbulent awakenings of a teenage daughter’s libido, and the rumblings of her over-protective papa. The most effective dual-character is Caitlyn Louchard’s Miranda-Ariel, as both characters are quite under the stern control of Prospero (David Sinaiko) and equally deserving of release. Less affecting yet somehow equally congruous is Sinaiko’s comic turn as the buffoonish Stephano, who stumbles through the forest in his boxer shorts, yet somehow maintains an air of mock dignity that does parallel Prospero’s. Donell Hill’s Caliban-Ferdinand endures his lust-love for Miranda and servitude to Prospero alternating between raw physicality and social ineptness. But since “The Tempest” is littered with characters even more minor, the game cast is stretched too thinly to fully inhabit each, and the entire subplot involving King Alonzo, Gonzalo, and Antonio in particular suffers from this ambitious over-extension. (Gluckstern)
The Tender King Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, Sixth Flr; www.secondwindtheatre.com. $20-25. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through Sat/11. The current firestorm over leaked diplomatic cables and exposed government lies and imperial machinations are nothing new in The Tender King. Second Wind’s debut of Bay Area playwright Ian Walker’s new drama takes audiences back to 1945, a critical period in the structuring of the postwar world as dominated ever since by the American Empire. Walker explores the tensions and contradictions attendant on the countdown to American global hegemony in three characters, two rooms, and one fateful decision. President Harry Truman (Brian O’Connor), newly ensconced in office after FDR’s death, sits drinking in a darkened room (mood-inducing lighting by Rob Siemens) as an ambitious young functionary named Will (Stephen Muterspaugh) arrives to get his John Hancock on the order to drop the new A Bomb on two Japanese cities. In shades of Schiller’s Mary Stuart, Truman delays and evades cunningly, filled with the exuberant knowledge and burden of power. Meanwhile, a semi-romantic, semi-sadistic relationship between Will and a French-German prostitute (Natalie Palan) unfolds in a parallel scene—a complex echo of the shock-doctrine advantage Will advocates to Truman in the face of a stunned and helpless European population. Directed by Walker, the production relies not ineffectively on heightened vernacular language and performances, although the latter while sturdy can feel more rote than in-the-moment, and the neat narrative framework and effervescent dialogue strays into formulaic conceits. Nevertheless, the play’s well-researched and articulated detail as well as forceful conviction make it both worthwhile and generally engaging—not to mention as politically au courant as anything on stage just now. (Avila)
The Velveteen Rabbit Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard; 978-2787, www.ybca.org. Call for dates and times. Through Sun/12. ODC/Dance presents Margery Williams’ holiday favorite.
Becoming Julia Morgan Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; (510) 984-3864, www.brownpapertickets.com. $24-30. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through Jan 9. Janis Stevens stars in Belinda Taylor’s play about the trailblazing architect.
A Christmas Carol: The Musical Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio, Novato; 863-4498, www.novatotheatercompany.org. $10-18. Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Through Dec 17. Novato Theater Company presents a new adaptation of the holiday classic.
A Christmas Memory TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.org. $19-67. Tues-Wed, 7:30pm; Thurs-Fri, 8pm; Sat, 2 and 8pm; Sun, 2 and 7pm (alos Thurs/23, 2pm and Fri/24, 7pm). Through Dec 26. TheatreWorks presents the seasonal tale by Truman Capote.
East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Call for times. Through Dec 19. Don Reed’s one-man show continues its extended run.
Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org. Call for dates and times. Through Jan 15. Berkeley Rep premieres the new musical, written by Lemony Snicket, with music by Nathaniel Stookey.
Loveland The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $20-50. Fri, 7pm; Sat, 8pm. Through Sat/11. Ann Randolph’s hit one-woman comic show continues its extended run.
Of the Earth – The Salt Plays: Part 2 Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. $17-30. Thurs-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm (beginning Dec 19). Through Jan 30. Shotgun Players present the second half of writer and director Jon Tracy’s Odyssey-inspired tale, with music by Brendan West.
*The Play About the Naked Guy La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10-20. Thurs-Sat, 8pm. Through Dec 18. Impact Theatre presents an off-Broadway hit, written by David Bell and directed by Evren Odcikin.
The World’s Funniest Bubble Show The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; (800) 838-3006, www.themarsh.org. $8-50. Sun, 11am (also Dec 20-23, 11am and Dec 26-30, 11am). The Amazing Bubble Man’s show presents flying saucer bubbles and other wonders.
Club Chuckles Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk; 923-0925. Wed/8, 9pm. $7. Club Chuckles turns seven with standup by David Liebe Hart and others.
Comedy Returns to El Rio! El Rio, 3158 Mission; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. Mon/13, 8pm. $7-20. Lisa Gedulgig hosts a monthly comedy night.
Double-Wide White Trash Christmas Show Martuni’s, 4 Valencia; 241-0205, www.dragatmartunis.com. Sun/12, 7pm. $5. A holiday edition of the “Bijou” cabaret showcase.
FoolsFURY 12th Anniversary Gala Theater Artaud, 450 Florida; www.foolsfurygala.eventbrite.org. Sat/11, 7:30pm. $30-60. The local theater ensemble celebrates a birthday.
Forking II: A Merry Forking! Christmas Off-Market Theaters, 965 Mission; (800) 838-3006, www.pianofight.com. Call for dates and times (through Dec 30). PianoFight presents a holiday-themed choose-your-own-adventure play.
A Funny Night for Comedy Actors Theatre, 855 Bush; 345-1287, www.NatashaMuse.com. Sun/12, 7pm. Natasha Muse and Ryan Cronin host an evening of comedy.
Ironic/NOT Ironic! Viracocha, 998 Valencia; 374-7048, www.viracochasf.com. Thurs/9, 9pm. Harmon Leon performs.
Literary Death Match – Holiday Bloodbath Special Elbo Room, 647 Valencia; www.literarydeathmatch.com. Fri/10, 7pm. $7-10. An evening of yuletide literary mayhem.
Mischievous Maidens Christmas Skylark Bar, 3089 16th St; 621-9294. Fri/10, 8pm. Free. A Christmas-themed burlesque night.
Project. B. The Garage, 975 Howard; 518-1517, www.brownpapertickets.com. Fri/10-Sat/11, 8pm. $10-20. Tanya Bello’s company presents Triquetra, a work from this year.
Doug Stanhope Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell; 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com. Wed/10, 8pm. $20. The vulgar comedian hits the Bay.
Touring Cast of Shrek Theater 19, Pier 39; 273-1620, www.HelpIsOnTheWay.org. Mon/13, 7:30pm.$35-65. A one-night-only cabaret to raise funds for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.
Trashina Cann The Garage, 975 Howard; 518-1517, www.brownpapertickets.com. Wed/8-Thurs/9, 8pm. $10-20. The company presents a new queer dance theater wok titled Legacy.