Dark Night of the Soul Demon wine, grass, dirty movies, and chest X-rays all play a part in Octavio Solis' new play, Prospect, a look at the soul-searching shenanigans of a trio who meet one night in a Dallas singles bar. Written and directed by Solis, Prospect mixes comedy and mortality. You can see it at 8:30 p.m. at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Third Floor, S.F. Tickets are $15-30; call 441-8822. Prospect continues Wednesdays-Sundays through Feb. 18.
Nuclear Nut Cases Amarillo, Texas-based George Ratliff's The Plutonium Circus began as a straight expos on the dangers of storing plutonium. But gloomy environmentalists, a fatalistic Catholic priest, and Charles Johnson III (a millionaire whose mother was a bomb inspector) transformed the documentary film's tone, adding an element of oddball, real-life character humor that recalls Errol Morris' pet cemetery doc Gates of Heaven. See Johnson III show off Charles Manson's fingerprints and a shrunken head mounted on a Christmas tree angel at 2, 7:30, and 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3.50-5.50; call 668-3994. The Plutonium Circus continues through Jan. 20.
Into the Groove "The S.F. Groove Fest" brings together four Bay Area bands who specialize in funk fusion: The Mo'Fessionals (who add R&B and hip hop to the mix); WAMMIE-winners One Nation Underground (who add acid jazz); Los Angelitos (who add Latin salsa); and urban peaceniks Big Brutha Soul. The benefit for S.F. Food Bank and Project Open Hand begins at 9 p.m. at Club 1015, 1015 Folsom, S.F. Tickets are $12-15; call 885-5982. ("A Night in the Soudan" crams even more music into the same address. Featuring the trance-dance Gnawa sounds of Hassan Hakmoun, Brahim Fribgane, Hamid Drake, Adam Rudolf, and DJ Cheb i Sabbah, it starts at 8 p.m. at Medina, 1015 Folsom, S.F. Tickets are $14; call 789-8467.)
Dirk the Magnificent Victim was a landmark at the time of its 1961 release, a feature film with a self-confessed (albeit non-practicing) homo hero. Dirk Bogarde plays the man who risks his marriage and career to track down a ring of blackmailers. Praised and criticized by Pauline Kael, Victim screens at 7 and 9:15 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, Castro & Market, S.F. Tickets are $6 (proceeds benefit the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission); call 621-6120.
Technophile/Technophobe Marque Cornblatt's new sculptures range from high-tech, remote-activated robots to low-tech, crank-operated creatures: all are bizarre-looking. Cornblatt's work incorporates body and technology politics, but his symbolism and execution rise above simplistic preaching or "cyberpunk" clich. See Cornblatt and his "Low Tech/High Tech" exhibit at an opening reception 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Morphos Gallery, 49 Geary, Second Floor, S.F. Free; call 399-1439.
Mental Hopscotch A collection of artists' projects exploring perceptions of mental illness, "Of Sound Mind" looks to the past (Ellen Driscoll's Passionate Attitudes, a sculptural installation based on J.M. Charcot's bizarre, scary 19th-century approach to female "hysteria") and the future (Margaret Crane/Jon Winet's General Hospital, which uses computer technology to investigate current psychiatric issues). An opening reception for the show -- which also includes work by Tony Allard and Kristine Diekman -- spans two hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, S.F. Free; call 626-5416.
Asta Again Before Gish and Garbo, Asta Nielsen defined the film actor's art as one of minimal gesture for maximum character. A six-installment tribute to the international silent film star (who made over 70 movies between 1911 and 1932), "Asta -- The Tenth Muse" features live accompaniment performed by Jon Mirsalis. See Asta in action at 5:30 p.m. (in Poor Jenny and three other shorts) and 7:30 p.m. (in The Great Moment and The Strange Bird) at Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant, Berkeley. Tickets are $3.50-5.50; call (510) 642-1124.
Second Time Around Dale Peck's 1992 novel Martin and John (published in Britain as Fucking Martin) is one of the most successful -- in critical and popular terms -- "gay novels" of recent years; its intricately braided, grief-stricken narrative won praise from stylists as diverse as Edmund White and Dennis Cooper. His new novel -- The Law of Enclosures -- is a twisted marital drama. He'll read from it at 7:30 p.m. at A Different Light, 489 Castro, S.F. Free; call 431-0891.
Talk, Music, Talk A continuing program of pre- and post-concert discussions with artists and scholars, "Sightlines" brackets the beginning and end of Kronos Quartet's Bay Area premiere of The Book of Alleged Dances, a new composition by John Adams. Adams talks about his music at 7 p.m.; Kronos Quartet performs his music at 8 p.m.; and Kronos Quartet talks about performing his music after the show at Hertz Hall, Bancroft & College, UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $24; call (510) 642-9988.
Loving Blubber Seven years ago, those playful pinnipeds known as sea lions first arrived on the K-Dock of Pier 39. Since then, the "sea-lebrities" (ouch) have multiplied, alternately feasting on herring and striking languid poses for an adoring public. You can see the creatures (and hear a guided talk) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, S.F. Free; call 705-5500 for more information.
Beware of Big Hair New wave fashions age with varying degrees of success. High on the silly meter is the scarecrow-hair-and-smudged-lipstick look of the Cure's Robert Smith. Still, lots of people worship Smith's whiny voice and whimsical goth poetics: New Wave City presents a tribute night to the Cure from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the Trocadero Transfer, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 675-LOVE. Those who prefer eyeliner-free American '80s revivalism can check out the Plimsouls (Peter Case's band, whose big moment was "A Million Miles Away," on the Valley Girl soundtrack. By the way, when's the Moon Unit Zappa revival gonna happen?). They play -- along with the Idlewilds -- at 9 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St., S.F. Tickets are $10; call 621-3330.
Art for Dollars "Plump" is a group of artists pitching in to help the High Risk Group raise money; it includes Mission performance regulars like Ron Kelly, Stanya Kahn, Charles Herman-Wurmfeild, Johnna Schmidt, Hank Hyena, Steamroller Dance, and Rachel Kaplan. "Plump" is also a multistage event that roves from studio to studio; it starts at 8 p.m. at Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts, 1519 Mission, S.F. Admission is $5-15; call 554-0402.
Silver Jubilee To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Pacific Film Archive has commissioned an original score for a recent acquisition, Boris Barnet's 1928 satire The House on Trubnaya Square. Barnet's film is filled with stylistic tricks and treats, including stop-motion, surrealism, and a sendup of Eisenstein; under the direction of Dennis James, Musica Curiosa Ensemble accompanies it with music featuring unusual '20s-era instruments like marxophone and flexatone. The sights and sounds start at 7:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant, Berkeley. Tickets are $8-10; call (510) 642-1124.
More Rockers With Big Hair In 1989, Testament had a gold record and was on a major label, Atlantic. Now, headbanger culture has been usurped by "alternative" culture, and Testament's fire-and-brimstone metal (Slayer and Megadeth are apt reference points) has literally been forced underground: The band's on an indie. Still, Testament is the music of the future according to film director Kathryn Bigelow -- she features the group in Strange Days. Interested parties can hear it, along with opening bands Release and Hetch Hetchy, at 9 p.m. at the Trocadero Transfer, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Tickets are $10; call 995-4600.
C.I.A. = T.R.O.U.B.L.E. U.S. lawyer Jennifer Harbury's tireless campaign to uncover the circumstances behind her Guatemalan husband's disappearance -- including three hunger strikes, one in front of the White House -- has garnered national media attention, much to the chagrin of the CIA and State Department, which withheld information about his death from her for months. Harbury speaks about CIA links to the Guatemalan army's human rights injustices at 7 p.m. at the Women's Building, 3543 18th St., S.F. Tickets are $10 for the lecture, $25 for the lecture and a 6 p.m. reception (benefits go to the Guatemala News and Information Bureau and Global Exchange); call 255-7296.
Rock for Jesus Christian (or Christian-like) spirituality is subtly invading the devil's music, what with the popularity of artists like the Innocence Mission and songs like "One of Us" by Joan Osborne (who looks exactly like Chloe Webb in Tales of the City). It's hard to tell whether Osborne is joking when she talks about the pope reaching God on the phone, but whatever the case, people want to hear her. Like Osborne, the 77's play gospel-tinged bluesy rock; along with Dimestore Prophets and the Philbillies, they perform at 9 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St., S.F. Tickets are $12; call 621-3330. Those who love rock but have reasons to dis Christianity can find solace in the punk-dyke attack of Tribe 8, who might just prefer Satan to Sappho. Celebrating the release of a new EP, Lynn Breedlove and friends headline a bill (including Cameltoe, who are fun, and Pachinko) at 7 p.m. at Kilowatt, 3160 16th St., S.F. Tickets are $5; call 861-2595.
Bike Till You Drop The Cycle Messenger World Championships, to be held locally over Labor Day weekend, will bring in hundreds of bike messengers from around the globe. Previously, the grueling competition has taken place in Berlin, London, and Toronto, but S.F. is hillier than any of those sissy cities. The route won't be announced until closer to race time, but it's bound to include blocked-off sections of the Financial District and North Beach. A benefit for the event -- featuring messenger-punk bands Fuckface, Thunderchimp, and STD -- starts at 9:30 p.m. at the Paradise Lounge, 11th St. & Folsom, S.F. Tickets are $4; call 861-6906.
Goin' South Sharing a preoccupation with fierce family bonds, many of the best-known gay/lesbian novelists of recent years -- Dorothy Allison, Blanche McCrary Boyd, Fenton Johnson, and Jim Grimsley, to name four -- have Southern roots. Grimsley (author of Winter Birds) and Johnson (author of Scissors, Paper, Rock) take part in "A Conversation About Contemporary Queer Southern Writing." Moderated by Charles Wilmoth, the art chat starts at 8 p.m. at the Women's Building, Audre Lord Room, 3543 18th St., S.F. Suggested donation is $5; call 626-2787.
Goin' West Founded by Temple Emanu-El and Third Baptist Church, Back on Track is an S.F.-based tutoring program that provides programs for inner-city youth. Celebrated/controversial Harvard University Professor Cornel West (author of the best-selling Race Matters) speaks at "Lift Every Voice," a fund-raising event for Back on Track. The program begins at 8 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El, Lake & Arguello, S.F. Tickets are $25; call 392-4400.