january 8
Graham's Big Aunt Venture A retired bank manager's well-ordered world goes topsy-turvy when he accompanies his aunt on a holiday trip in Giles Havergal's adaptation of Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt. CIA operatives, flower children, thieves, and other strangers on the train free bachelor-protagonist Henry Pulling from a dull fate in this production, staged by the American Conservatory Theater and featuring Ken Ruta and Geoff Hoyle. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 2) at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary, S.F. Admission is $14-47.50; call 749-2228.

Mamet, Damn It People at their worst have served Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet best, from the cutthroat competition between salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross to the sexual harassment scandal of Oleanna. Mamet's unflinching view of the human condition gets two readings this month, as the Magic Theater stages Cryptogram, the story of a failing marriage and a friendship betrayed as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy, and the Genesius Theater Company does American Buffalo, a drama in which three small-time thieves plan to steal a coin collection. Cryptogram opens with a preview at 8:30 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 9) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-21; call 441-8822. American Buffalo opens Friday, Jan. 10, at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 2) at the 450 Geary Studio Theater, 450 Geary, S.F. Admission is $15-17; call 673-1172.

january 9
The Politics of Dancing Two people can manage never to connect. That's the premise of Ney Fonseca's new dance duet, Parallel Tracks, which premieres at "Queers and Peers," a contemporary dance concert of solos and duets exploring bonds and rifts between lesbians and gay men, organized by Fonseca and choreographer Anne Bluethenthal. Common goals and different plans for reaching them inform these works, as do spirituality, sexuality, politics, and mortality. If Parallel Tracks is one side of these reconfigured relationships, Who Are You -- in which dancers grappling with their differences eventually generate a common vocabulary -- is the other. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 18) at Dancers' Group Studio Theater, 3221 22nd St., S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 824-5044.

So Very Berry Mick Berry revives his father, the late Sgt. Berry, in his solo performance piece Dad Fought Hitler, the Bottle & Me. The elder Berry, a World War II fighter who was captured behind enemy lines and spent a year in confinement, was a hard-drinking, hard-living womanizer, according to his son, who weaves their conversations and his father's writings into this comic and moving monologue about a guy and his dad. A former stand-up comedian and veteran of both the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and the Mime Troupe, Berry opens his show at 8 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 1) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 626-2169.

january 10
Byrne, Baby, Byrne In the grand rock 'n' roll tradition, ex-Talking Head honcho David Byrne is doing "Stairway to Heaven." But because Byrne has made a career of being different, his "Stairway" isn't a Zeppelin cover, but a public art series of photomontages displayed in Market Street advertising kiosks in conjunction with S.F. Camerawork's three-artist show "Anima Mundi." In "Anima Mundi," his first West Coast exhibit, Byrne tackles interpersonal power ploys; he'll be accompanied at a public reception by fellow exhibiting artists Luis Delgado Qualtrough and Mary Tsiongas, whose Cosmological Loteria and Divine Clouds, respectively, as well as photographs by Byrne, opened at the gallery last month. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. at S.F. Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F. Admission is free; call 764-1001.

Aerial Maneuvers Magic realism imbues Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics, the story of airport baggage handler Anibal de la Luna, who finds a mysterious and very pregnant young woman, Celestina del Sol, on the roadside during a torrential rain. Time loses all meaning after that, as Celestina's inability to tell hours from days and weeks is compounded by a love affair that develops between them, making clocks stop and years fly by. When Anibal's brother joins the pair, he finds himself affected as well. Judy Reyes plays Celestina and Gary Perez is Anibal when Berkeley Rep stages this work by Rivera, who also penned Marisol and Giants Have Us in Their Books. The show opens with a preview at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 7) at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison, Berkeley. Admission is $25-39; call (510) 845-4700.

Global Trotters By the time the Ethnic Dance Festival takes the stage, a pool of over 100 dance companies and soloists has been pared down to about 40. The place to see the cultural dances like the Egyptian dervish, the Argentine bolo, the Japanese butoh, and the Indian rajastani, before cuts and before the official festival ticket prices take effect, is at the fest auditions, which are judged by a panel of ethnic dance experts and a typically enthusiastic crowd. Auditions are held at 5 p.m. (also at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) at the McKenna Theater, 1600 Holloway, SFSU campus. Admission is a suggested $5 donation at the door; call 474-3914.

january 11
A Parisian in America The French invasion is nigh, and unfortunately, the soundtrack will be canned. Still, performances by the Paris Opera Ballet are infrequent enough to warrant a trip to Berkeley. As is traditional, the Opera tour presents mixed repertory in two programs. The 23 dancers -- etoiles (stars), soloists and principal dancers, and the corps de ballet -- will perform classics like the pas de deux from Act 2 of Bournonville's La Sylphide and Fokine's The Dying Swan alongside 20th-century works like Ben Stevenson's Three Preludes and Balanchine's Apollo. Established in 1661 by Louis XIV, the Opera Ballet has a formidable history and a rigorous preparatory school at which dancers are expected to absorb classical ballet and the new work modern choreographers like Twyla Tharp and Maguy Marin have created for the company. Tonight's performance begins at 8 p.m. (also Sunday at 2 p.m.) in Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-40; call (510) 642-9988.

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