april 16
The Art of Eating Out Our Japanese sister city Osaka emphasizes the fun in functional art with "Joy Under the Blossoms: Lacquer Picnic Sets From the Osaka Municipal Museum," an exhibit held in conjunction with the Cherry Blossom Festival. These days, picnic sets, better known in the States as bento boxes, are packed with snacks and sake and taken on festive outings just as they were in the 18th and 19th centuries, the era from which 20 of the city's best sets, hand-finished with scenes from nature or society, were taken. "Blossoms," along with the album leaves and scrolls comprising "The Art of Chao Shao-An," opens at 9:30 a.m. (and is up through May 18; "Chao Shao-An" through June 15) at the Asian Art Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 379-8801.

april 17
The Way Things Were Filmmaker Oliver Stone might consider using Henry Ford's oft-cited dictum that "history is more or less bunk" the next time he's accused of cinematic revisionism. Stone has been both revered and reviled for his portrayals of the Doors' Jim Morrison, former President Richard Nixon, and now Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt (Stone produced the recent The People vs. Larry Flynt). His next project, an adaptation of the Oscar-winning documentary Breathing Lessons, shouldn't give him as much leeway for reinterpreting the past, but you can find out for yourself when he appears at the panel discussion "Reinventing History: Reality on Film." In what could be a very animated conversation, Stone will be joined by In the Name of the Father screenwriter Terry George, documentarians Loni Ding (Nisei Soldier) and Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A.), film scholar B. Ruby Rich, and Eyes on the Prize producer Jon Else. The evening begins at 7 p.m. in the Arthur Andersen Auditorium, Haas Business School, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is free; call (510) 642-3383.

Seniority Reigns Little old ladies like harmonica player Olga Ramos rip up the joint at "Gray Cabaret: Talent Through the Ages," a variety show where 50 senior musicians, actors, singers, and dancers show the young folks how it's done. Tap troupe the Strutters (whose dancers are mostly in their 70s) share the stage with the likes of western line dance company the Shades, the San Francisco Downtown Senior Center Chinese Folk Dancers, and singers Carole Jan Lee and Gini Malaspina. The show begins at 2 p.m. at the Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, S.F. Admission is $7; call 978-ARTS.

From Russia With Love Wailing dance tunes and wedding songs, soldierly epics and romantic laments sung by 10-member a cappella group the Podserednie Ensemble give the touring Russian Village Festival, formally known as "From the Village Fair to the Stage: Rituals and Celebrations of the Russian People," part of its cultural flavor. The rest comes from the Northern Russian stories, traditional games, ceremonial dances, and folk songs performed on household utensils by the Northern Pearls; season-cycle songs of all-woman group the Dorozovsky Folk Ensemble; centuries-old Cossack songs sung by young folklore ensemble Volnitsa; and work by other groups. The show, a kaleidoscope of various regional, indigenous Russian traditions dating back as far as the 13th century, begins at 8 p.m. (Sightlines symposium "Russian Village Culture" begins at 2 p.m., and a pre-concert lecture begins at 7 p.m.) in Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $14-26; call (510) 642-9988.

Nuts to You Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw is a case study in the overlap between funny/ha-ha and funny/strange. Orton's premise -- that sanity is relative -- unfolds in the office of psychiatrist Dr. Prentice, whose seduction of his secretary turns into a series of disappearances and discoveries after he's interrupted repeatedly by his sex-crazed wife, a blackmailing bellboy, a government inspector with a God complex, and a policeman searching for missing parts of Winston Churchill. The Chameleon Theater stages Orton's famous farce, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 10) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St., S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 626-6404.

What's the Word? Stand-up comedian Suzy Berger already recognizes the healing power of laughter, which she extends to her one-woman show The Talking Cure, the story of a straight woman, Jody, who gets to know her neighbor Gary, a gay man with AIDS. It's not an auspicious beginning (Jody thinks she has to hold her breath to avoid being infected), but the two become fast friends and confidants as time ticks away. This is a reprise of the Berger show, which local critics praised as witty and cathartic the first time around. Cure opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 27) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 861-8972.

In Step The Lawrence Pech Dance Company's one-two combination of technical classicism and contemporary themes holds strong, as does Pech, a former American Ballet Theater and San Francisco Ballet star who has thus far survived Baryshnikov, New York City, a bout with cancer, and artistic differences that caused his first company to fold. The troupe's second incarnation, featuring Oakland Ballet's Joral Schmalle and former SFB dancer Wendy Van Dyck, returns with Pech's new work about one family's twisted machinations, Tre Brata ("Three Brothers"); Antonio Castilla's The Games We Play; and Pech's solo piece about besting his illness, Blue Lair, which KQED filmed in '91. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $20.50-25; call 621-7797.

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