They Give Good Phone Don't count the Rev. Larry Poland among the fans of the late Robert Chesley's "pornographic elegy" Jerker or the Helping Hand. When Poland heard a 1986 Pacifica radio broadcast of excerpts from the play -- the story of two gay men who develop a relationship over the phone without ever meeting in person -- he reported Chesley to the FCC, launching an obscenity investigation that ultimately resulted in new FCC guidelines and inadvertently ensured Jerker's success. Actor-activist Michael Kearns, who directed the play's original run in L.A., returns to head up this production. Jerker previews at 8 p.m. (continuing through Aug. 3) at the New Conservatory Theater, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $18; call 861-8972.
Tilting at Blenders Through physical comedy and the use of household appliances, performer Deborah Gwinn muses on the possible adventures of a literary hero whose quest never makes it past the front door. Jim Cave joins Gwinn as the Don's sidekick, Sancho Panza, in Gwinn's rewrite of Cervantes' Don Quixote, set to the music of Richard Strauss' Don Quixote, Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character. Gwinn, a local theater veteran whose plays have been produced throughout the Bay Area, returns after a two-year seclusion in England with this work and The Gordons, in which she and pianist Mark Gordon tell amusing, musical tall tales. Don Quixote and The Gordons preview at 8:30 p.m. (continuing through Aug. 10) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 826-5750.
Hotter Than Chicken Soup Peace in the Middle East is the main focus of the nearly 50 films and videos of the 16th Annual Jewish Film Festival, which opens this year with Jean-Jacques Zilberman's comedy Not Everybody's Lucky Enough to Have Had Communist Parents, with comedian Josiane Balasko as a Parisian communist supporter at odds with her de Gaullist husband in late-'50s France. Cinematic subjects range from 80-year-old klezmer musicians the Epstein Brothers, profiled in Stefan Schwietert's A Tickle in the Heart, to Jews and Gypsies living together on a Ukrainian mountainside, in Yale Strom's documentary Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years. The festival includes one world and nine national premieres, and closes with Eve Annenberg's feature film debut, Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint, a comedy about sisterhood, crime, and neurosis. The Jewish Film Festival kicks off with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and a screening of Not Everybody's Lucky Enough to Have Had Communist Parents at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro, S.F. Admission is $15 for both; call 621-0564.
Friends and Relations Sean San Jose Blackman, Luis Saguar, and Michael Torres formed theatrical collective Campo Santo ("Sacred Ground") with the aim of performing new plays by American playwrights, relying primarily on language, rather than elaborate sets and costumes, to tell the story. The trio makes good on their intent with a chamber production of Octavio Solis' Santos & Santos, the story of three Latino brothers facing moral dilemmas in their pursuit of an ever-elusive American Dream. Tomas Santos quits his job at the DA's Office, where he sees himself as a pawn in the affirmative action battle, and goes home to work for a firm in El Paso, only to find that the company is bankrolling its good community work with drug money. Tito Larriva, of former L.A. punk band the Plugz, provides an original score. Santos & Santos previews at 8 p.m. (continuing through Aug. 11) at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, S.F. Admission is $9-12; call 550-7250.
Sweatshop Shots Photographer Robert Gumpert and David Bacon focus on overextended, underpaid garment workers in their black-and-white photo exhibit "Faces Behind the Labels." Gumpert, a photojournalist, has spent over two decades snapping shots of garment workers at home, on the job, and on the picket line, while Bacon has documented a number of workers' struggles in his former capacity as union organizer. "Faces Behind the Labels," an inaugural fund-raiser for national watchdog group Sweatshop Watch, opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, S.F. Admission is $15; call 391-1655.
Star-Struck Bean-and-noodle portrait master Jason Mecier contributes a homey (and theoretically edible) likeness of Mayor Brown, while photographer Randy Moore examines issues of personal and public identity through the eyes of comic-book icon Robin the Boy Wonder in "Celebrity/Self," a group show on the widening cult of personality. Nine local artists explore the deflated value of fame in an age when the prefixes "mega" and "super" are indiscriminately affixed to models and sports heroes, and anyone with Internet access can log on to worldwide exposure. Street artists will sketch portraits of gallerygoers at the "Celebrity/Self" opening reception at 6 p.m. in the Art Commission Gallery, Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is free; call 554-6080.
Two Tribes Shari Frilot's film Black Nations/Queer Nations?: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities in the African Diaspora confronts the duality of black and queer identity as filtered through popular culture and framed by documentary footage of a similarly themed conference held last year in New York, where panel discussions and workshops targeted topics like black nationalism, black and gay spirituality, and homophobia in the black community. Frilot, the festival director for MIX, the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, will screen her film locally and lead a subsequent discussion with panelists Elias Farajaje-Jones, professor of religion and society at Berkeley's Star King School of Theology, and Lynice Pinkard, associate pastor at the City of Refuge Community Church. Two short films will also screen, and a post-event party, free with ticket purchase, will be held at King Street Garage, 174 King, S.F. The screening and panel discussion begin at 7 p.m. (also on Saturday) at Luna Sea, 2940 16th St., S.F. Admission is $7-15, $25 for the event and opening night reception; call 392-6257.