Stage listings

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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. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.

THEATER

OPENING

BAY AREA

The Coast of Utopia: Voyage & Shipwreck Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; www.shotgunplayers.org. $20-35. Shipwreck previews Fri/22-Sat/23 and March 29, 8pm; March 27-28, 7pm; Sun/24, 5pm. Opens March 30, 8pm. Runs Wed-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through May 5. Voyage previews March 27, 7pm. Opens April 3, 3pm. Runs April 13, 20, 27, and May 4, 3pm. Shotgun Players perform the first two parts of Tom Stoppard's revolutionary trilogy.

ONGOING

Assistance NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa, SF; www.opentabproductions.com. $20. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 6pm. Through March 30. Over the past three years, things we've come to expect from plucky OpenTab Productions — whose annual offerings deal in aggressively contemporary themes such as media spin, business fraud, and job (in)security — include tight ensemble acting, minimal tech, and snappy direction, and in all these regards, Assistance does not disappoint. A crew of desperate office drones whose lives basically revolve around the abuse dished out by their unseen employer, Daniel Weisinger (who may or may not resemble playwright Leslye Headland's old boss, Harvey Weinstein), hold down their airless fort, fielding calls at 11 p.m. and shirking responsibility whenever possible. Though Headland doesn't do much to make her emotionally and professionally stunted characters palatable, the capable cast and director Ben Euphrat do manage to wring something resembling humanity out of them. From Nick (Tristan Rholl,) the frustrated slacker supervisor, to Nora (Melissa Keith), the-new-girl-turned-cynical-old-hand, to Justin (Nathan Tucker), the unctuous winner of the title of "last man standing," to Jenny (Michelle Drexler) a pragmatic yet annoyingly bubbly Brit, what stands out in each performance are the perfectly captured quirky nuances and barely-concealed neuroses of people caught in the process of losing their souls. Nothing about Assistance is likely to change your view of the business world, but if you've yet to experience the frenetic fun of an OpenTab show, it's a perfect primer to the madness behind their method. (Gluckstern)

The Chairs Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor, SF; www.cuttingball.com. $20-45. Thu, 7:30pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Sun, 5pm. Extended through April 7. In Rob Melrose's new translation of Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs, an elderly couple sit in the austere parlor of their lonely lighthouse, chortling over a spate of private wordplay and reminiscing of sprightlier times, until their initially frantic and disjointed dialogue settles into a smooth flow, well-polished by decades of endearments and gentle bickering. Possibly the last two survivors of a not entirely explained apocalypse, the isolated nonagenarians (magnificently played by David Sinaiko and Tamar Cohn) nevertheless make it known that important guests are expected to arrive at any moment in order to hear a hired orator (Derek Fischer) deliver the Old Man's "message," which he has spent a lifetime honing. As the doorbell begins to ring, a jarring squall, and invisible guests and dozens of mismatched chairs begin to crowd their peaceable empire in claustrophobia-inducing numbers, their companionable seclusion is shattered for good. Director Annie Elias manages to coax both gravitas and decorum out of this little-produced, yet influential absurdist relic, imbuing her protagonists with a depth of character that belies their farcical circumstances, while Theodore J.H. Hulsker's murmuring sound design of crashing waves, angry winds, and the strident doorbell could almost be another character in the play, so thoroughly does it set the tone in ways that Ionesco might not have approved of, but is all the better for. (Gluckstern)

Dead Metaphor ACT's Geary Theater, 415 Geary, SF; www.act-sf.org. $20-95. Wed/20-Sat/23, 8pm (also Sat/23, 2pm); Sun/24, 2 and 7pm. American Conservatory Theater performs George F. Walker's dark comedy about postwar living.

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.

The Great Big Also Z Space, 450 Florida, SF; www.zspace.org. $15-30. Thu/21-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 5pm. The Rift is coming, and when it does, you'll have to decide for yourself, will you stay or will you go? But stay for what? Go where? These are just a couple of the big questions underlying Mugwumpin's latest devised occurrence The Great Big Also, a tour de prophétie, on the conundrum that is survival. Split up from the outset, each audience member must undergo a sort of personal journey through the play, sequestered in a kind of labyrinth of inter-locking white walls (cunningly designed by Sean Riley) that lead equally nowhere, and subjected to the roving attentions of the eight ensemble members, who chatter amiably about their individual pasts and the history of their tenuous confederation — the New Settlers. Punctuated by bursts of exposition coming from above, and the cacophonous underpinnings of Theodore Hulsker's dramatic sound design, their spirited discourse creates more questions than answers, and random snatches of eavesdropped-upon conversation gleaned from other rooms in the labyrinth only serves to muddle their objectives even more. As the tightly-knit, New Settler community becomes increasingly stretched and frayed, the physical walls of the set stretch too and eventually collapse, (once the audience is seated, somewhat more traditionally in a ring of folding chairs that encircle the wide parameter of the Z Space stage). Interesting resonances abound with FoolsFURY's production of Doug Dorst's futuristic Monster in the Dark and Banana Bag and Bodice's neo-sci-fi melodrama The Sewers, yet Mugwumpin's exploration of a possibly brave, possibly new world, manages to be both maddeningly cryptic and exuberantly profound all on its own. (Gluckstern)

God of Carnage Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sheltontheater.org. $38. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through March 30. Shelton Theater presents Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning comedy about upper-middle-class parents clashing over an act of playground violence between their children.

Inevitable SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF; www.sfplayhouse.org. $20. Thu/21-Sat/23, 8pm. SF Playhouse's "Sandbox Series," enabling new and established playwrights to stage new works, kicks off its third season with Jordan Puckett's drama about a woman trying to make sense of her life.

Just One More Game Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy, SF; www.tripleshotprodutions.org. $25. Thu-Sat, 8pm. Through March 30. With the rise of the programmer as pop culture hero, it was probably inevitable that we'd start writing plays about them too. In local playwright Dan Wilson's Just One More Game our programmer protagonist is Kent (Christopher DeJong) whose mission is to find love, and his co-player is Marjorie (Linda-Ruth Cardozo), who wields her own geek credentials like a Mortal Kombat wrath hammer. Where Wilson's comedy excels is in the witty gamer banter that defines much of their attraction and commonality — references to Zork, Oregon Trail, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Secret of Monkey Island abound, while a series of meticulous video game animations (also Wilson's) lend colorful counterpoint to the action on the stage. DeJong plays his role of emotionally-inhibited loner with a degree of laconic detachment that unfortunately eliminates all traces of chemistry between him and Cardozo, who is especially good at capturing the cheerfully aggressive awkward of a woman accustomed to being "one of the boys" because there was nothing about "the girls" she could relate to. Both the comedy and pace flag by the time the first NPCs (non-player characters) enter the room, broadly clichéd parents yammering for grandchildren and obnoxious college buddies armed with too many baby photos, who conspire to stunt the growth of Kent and Marjorie's relationship and wind up stunting the growth of the play. If the quest for love is a game, as the title suggests, it's one that could use a little more back-end development, and a much greater degree of playfulness. (Gluckstern)

A Lady and a Woman Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.therhino.org. $15-30. Wed/20-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 3pm. Life wasn't easy in the South of the 1890s, particularly for single black women, but in Shirlene Holmes' A Lady and a Woman the focus is emphatically on rising above circumstance. When itinerant hog-cutter Biddie Higgins (Dawn L. Troupe) swaggers into the village inn run by Miss Flora Devine (Velina Brown) and demands a room, sparks fly almost instantaneously, as the two pragmatic and independent women become drawn to the strength they see in the other. A healer and midwife as well as an innkeeper, Miss Flora has endured enough abuse at the hands of men in her life to make her grateful to be able to live without one around, while Biddie, the only daughter in a household of fourteen, has become accustomed to a life of manual labor and clandestine trysts with willing women, never sticking around one place long enough to run out of either, declaring "it's been easier to live a hard life then a lie." Both Brown and Troupe embody their multi-dimensional characters with grace and backbone, never striking a false note as their tender courtship unfolds and they discover that the greatest strength of all is the ability to love freely. (Gluckstern)

The Lisbon Traviata New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, SF; www.nctcsf.org. $25. Wed/20-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 2pm. New Conservatory Theatre Center performs Terrence McNally's play, a mix of comedy and tragedy, about the relationship between two opera fanatics.

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. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm, through March 30. Starting April 4, runs Thu, 8pm; Sat, 8:30pm. Extended through May 18.

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)

The Voice: One Man's Journey Into Sex Addition and Recovery Stage Werx Theater, 446 Valencia, SF; thevoice.brownpapertickets.com. $10-18. Fri-Sat, 8pm. Through April 6. Ticket sales for David Kleinberg's autobiographical solo show benefit 12-step sex addiction recovery programs and other non-profits.

The Waiting Period Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia, SF; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through March 30. 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)

BAY AREA

Dostoevsky's The Grand Inquisitor Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berk; www.centralworks.org. $15-28. Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 5pm. Through March 31. Central Works performs Gary Graves' adaptation of the story-within-a-story from The Brothers Karamazov.

Fallaci Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk; www.berkeleyrep.org. $29-89. Tue, Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm); Wed and Sun, 7pm (also Sun, 2pm). Through April 21. Berkeley Rep performs Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright's new play about Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.

The Mountaintop Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; www.theatreworks.org. $23-75. Tue-Wed, 7:30pm; Thu-Sat, 8pm (also Sat, 2pm), through March 31. Starting April 3, runs Wed-Thu, 11am (also Thu, 8pm); Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. Through April 7. TheatreWorks performs Katori Hall's play that re-imagines the events on the night before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

The Real Americans Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston, Berk; www.themarsh.org. $25-50. Fri, 8pm; Sat, 5pm. Through April 6. Dan Hoyle shifts his popular show about small-town America to the Marsh's Berkeley outpost.

PERFORMANCE/DANCE

BATS Improv Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.improv.org. $20. "Theatresports," Fri, 8pm. Through March 29. "Double Feature," Sat, 8pm. Through March 30.

"The Buddy Club Children's Shows" Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Wy, SF; www.thebuddyclub.com. Sun/24, 11am-noon. $8 (under two years old, free). Comedy magician Robert Strong performs.

Caroline Lugo and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; www.carolinalugo.com. Sun/24, 6:15pm. $15-19. Flamenco performance by the mother-daughter dance company, featuring live musicians.

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

"New Works by Artists in Residence" CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF; www.counterpulse.org. Thu-Sun, 8pm. Through March 31. $20-30. With richien (Rowena Richie and Jennifer Chien) performing Twindependent, and Sense Object (Miriam Wolodarksi) performing Of Limb and Language.

"Ninth Annual Conceptual Public Art Performance: Dance Anywhere" Various locations, SF; www.danceanywhere.org. Fri/22, noon. Free. This worldwide movement presents simultaneous performance art in over 45 countries; check the website for local events and to connect with other participants.

"ODC/Dance Downtown 2013" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, SF; www.odcdance.org. Wed/20-Thu/21, 7:30pm; Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm; Sun/24, 4pm. $20-75. The company celebrates its 42nd season with three world premieres from Brenda Way and KT Nelson.

"ODC Pilot 62: Kinetoscope...This Time With Pictures" ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF; www.odctheater.org. Fri/22-Sat/23, 8pm. $15. Rising dance film artists present dance films and live, multimedia performances.

"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.

"Shen Wei Dance Arts: Undivided Divided" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. Thu/21-Sat/23, 8pm (also Sat/23, 5pm); Sun/24, 2 and 5pm. $10-30. The choreographer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, Shen Wei, also heads up China's first contemporary dance company; this performance is an installation featuring 18 dancers and multimedia elements.

"Snow White and Her Merry Men" Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF; www.sfgmc.org. Mon/25-Tue/26, 8pm. $15-75. The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon come together for this special joint concert.

"2013 Rhino Benefit Celebration" Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, SF; www.therhino.org. Sun/24, 7:30pm. $25. Theatre Rhinoceros celebrates 35 years of queer theater with this benefit bash, featuring Connie Champagne, Dave Dobrusky, Mike Finn, Casey Ley, Matthew Martin, and more.

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