Life Is a Cabaret, Damn It Those lashes, those lungs, that Liza-with-a-Z! A life's worth of comparisons (many unfavorable) to her late mother, Judy Garland, never dissuaded Liza Minnelli from carving out her own show-biz persona, however brassy (or campy, depending on your perspective). There were the TV specials, like Baryshnikov on Broadway, a romp with her good friend Mischa. There were the movies: New York, New York and Cabaret. There was an album, Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall, which marked a record-breaking three-week sellout crowd. Liza lovers, and it appears there are many, will flood the Civic Center when the entertainer belts out show-stoppers and standards from musicals and film, backed by a 12-piece band and the Cortes Alexander Trio. The concert begins at 8 p.m. (also Thursday and Friday) at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $45-75; call 864-6000.
Hurrell for Hollywood A buxom, artfully tousled Jane Russell reclining in the hay is evidence enough of photographer George Hurrell's talent for buffing the sheen on Hollywood's early stars. Through elaborate lighting and extensive retouching -- check out the before and after shots of a sun-damaged Joan Crawford in Bay Area photographer Mark Vieira's book Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits -- Hurrell set the standard for the publicity head-shot with glamour puss portraits of celebrities like Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow, giving audiences some of the era's most enduring images in the process. Vieira discusses and signs copies of the biography at a reception at 4:30 p.m. (an exhibit of archival prints is up through July 12) at Photo Metro Gallery, 17 Tehama, S.F. Admission is free; call 243-9917. (In a related note, Hurrell's work will be shown and sold along with work by Warhol and others at an auction of photos and pictures of Marilyn Monroe at 7 p.m. Monday at the Harvey Clars Estate Auction Gallery, 5644 Telegraph, Oakland. Admission is free; call 510/428-0100.)
Let the Soleil Shine What's supposed to be a fun spectacle for kids is also the first place many of them learn real fear: fear of aerialists falling and breaking their necks, fear of red-nosed men in oversized shoes and garish makeup, fear of tigers tearing their trainers to shreds (a fear justified by a recent real-life incident, by the way). Quebec's international Cirque du Soleil does much to repair the circus' tawdry reputation with a show favoring the theatrical over the death-defying. There's no shortage of astounding feats in the new production Quidam, as a jaded little girl rediscovers wonder in a fantastic parallel universe populated by Spanish web acrobats, hoop jumpers, contortionists, and cloud swingers, but the vivid costumes and haunting live score alone will leave audiences breathless. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through July 20) at Jack London Square, Alice & Embarcadero, Oakland. Admission is $8.25-45.50; call (800) 678-5440.
Bi Here Now Britain meets the bay at about the same time it pulls out of Hong Kong, while London's Bi Ma Dance Company's premiere Blue Mandarin chronicles the sense of unease in that formerly colonized city. The luminous beauty of choreographer Pit Fong Loh's theatrical modernity, inspired in part by tai chi and qi gong, finds its match in a joint performance with San Francisco's Lily Cai Chinese Dance, which offers its own premiere, Candelas, a work based on the historical use of candles as a symbol in Chinese poetry and in folk dance around the world. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through June 1) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $12.50-18.50; call 621-7797.
Frightfully Funny Like the heroine of Hitchcock's Rebecca, who spends most of the film fleeing the specter of her new husband's late wife in his lavish but creepy mansion, the newlywed Lady Enid uncovers all kinds of terrifying secrets at the Mandacrest Estate in Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep. Ludlam, of the famed Ridiculous Theatrical Company, parodies the Gothic horror melodrama in this Obie Award-winning "penny dreadful," which sends principals Charles Shaw Robinson and Danny Scheie through several countries and costume changes in their encounters with werewolves and vampires. The show previews at 8 p.m. and runs through June 29 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berkeley; it then continues July 8-27 at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $18-22; call 441-8822.
The Fur Flies Love Letters playwright A.R. Gurney shifts gears with Sylvia, a love story of sorts between a man and the street-smart mutt he adopts from Central Park. The romance takes a comic turn as Sylvia's dogged exuberance strains relations between the man and the other love of his life, his wife. The production, a local run with a national company, is directed by John Rando and previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 31) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, S.F. Admission is $25-37; call 771-6900.
At the Baile Fireworks explode from the back of El Diablo in "Dance of the Devils," a piece based on a Mayan harvest ritual and performed by the Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Guatemala as part of their ritual theater signature piece, El Pabaanc. A peace accord that cooled the fireworks in Guatemala after 36 years of civil war initiated this rare visit from the company, which dances its repertoire to live musicians playing folk instruments like marimba and xylophone. Augmented by the candles, incense, and richly colorful costumes, Ballet Folklorico dances reflect Maya and Catholic religious symbols and imagery. The show begins at 7 p.m. at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, 700 Howard, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 978-ARTS.
Dots Great Go ahead and forget to have children, but try to remember the exhibit "Selections From the Anderson Graphic Arts Collection: Roy Lichtenstein Prints," which comprises 27 lithographs, screenprints, and woodcuts from the artist's career. Lichtenstein's comic-book-style pop art images, done in BenDay dots, have settled into pop culture as snappy postcards, but his originals, like the huge art-deco-style lithograph and screenprint Peace Through Chemistry II (1970) and print series inspired by works from Monet and Picasso, are ambitious in size and scope. The exhibit opens at 9:30 a.m. (and is up through Sept. 14) at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 863-3330.
Comic Relief A keen sense of humor is as crucial to successful activism as phone trees and mailing lists. With that in mind, San Francisco Women Against Rape raises funds for its rape prevention and education programs and its services for survivors of rape and sexual assault with "She Who Laughs Lasts," an evening of comedy with stand-ups Sabrina Matthews and Julia Jackson, and dyke sketch-comedy group Baby-Snatching Dingoes, among others. The show, which includes refreshments and prizes, begins at 7 p.m. at the Women's Building, 3543 18th St., S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 861-2024.
C'mon, Pilgrims Around the World With Satan's Pilgrims has all the familiar tiki-tacky charm of Dad's record collection, if Dad surfed, with little flags on the back cover representing each song's country of origin, in the style of Martin Denny exotica. But with three guitars, plus a Hammond organ and rhythm section, the Portland, Ore.-based Pilgrims take the twangy instrumental surf of the Ventures or Dick Dale and blow it out of the water, and the band's matching vampire capes would give Gidget a fright. Tacoma neighbors Girl Trouble contribute to the dance-party abandon with garage-a-go-go originals like "Sister Mary Motorcycle." The Mutilators open the show at 9 p.m. at the Kilowatt, 3160 16th St., S.F. Admission is $7; call 861-2595.
Grand Stand A family picnic serves as a local prelude to Stand for Children, a local, national, and virtual advocacy event promoting the health and general well-being of kids across the country. Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth puts on the picnic, which combines the food booths, games, and performances by a children's orchestra and choir with an advocacy fair featuring tables staffed by about 30 of the city's children and youth service agencies. Stand for Children's official day, June 1, will be observed locally as it will be nationally, with immunization campaigns, food and shoe drives, and so on. The picnic begins at 1 p.m. at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission between Third & Fourth streets, S.F. Admission is free; call 641-4362.
Foiled Again Unsavory types like asshole landlords and boorish drunks are much likelier to see your point if you laugh triumphantly, unsheathe your blade, and wave it around with the authority that can only come from ... swashbuckling lessons! The School of Circus Arts isn't encouraging students to actually stab people, only to create the realistic impression of a sword fight. Actors and regular folk will learn the secrets of authentic historical swordplay, to wield steel like Robin Hood's broadsword and the Three Musketeers' rapiers and daggers, all in a nonviolent and noncompetitive way. (Bonus question: Why weren't the Musketeers using muskets?) Equipment provided; warm-up clothes suggested. Lessons begin at 2 p.m. at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, 755 Frederick, S.F. Admission is $30; call 759-8123.
What Goes Up Must Come Down If Steve Park looks familiar, it's probably from his turn as the weepy former high-school classmate of Frances McDormand in Fargo. Or maybe it's from his longtime stint on sketch-comedy show In Living Color, or his role as the Korean grocer in Do the Right Thing. Park gets back to his stage roots when the Asian American Theater Company presents the world premiere of Sung J. Rno's Gravity Falls From Trees, a tragicomedy about a Korean pilot, a singing physicist, and a Korean-American woman obsessed with an unfinished novel who meet in a hospital room and slowly discover their connections to the same incident. The show opens at 7 p.m. (and runs through June 22) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $16-21; call 441-8822.
Founding Fathers The Descendents have been around so long they played Southern California's late-'70s/early '80s punk boom and still sent their singer to college, twice. Since 1978, with higher-education breaks (see Milo Goes to College, circa 1982) and various incarnations that saw drummer Bill playing with Black Flag and parts of the band calling itself All, the Descendents put out fast, tuneful punk songs that ranged from the silly ("HYrtin CrYe") to the stupid to the surly. This is the original lineup, so requests for oldies just might be honored. Pollen, Handsome, Guttermouth, and Less Than Jake open at 6 p.m. at the Trocadero, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 995-4600.
Cheer Up, Sleepy Gene The Smiths' keen melodies and moping vocals made some people want to sing along and other people smack whoever's closest; the latter might want to think twice about spending a whole evening with English foursome Gene, whose dandified pop conjures up visions of chain-smoking in the London drizzle. This is the soulful sound of well-read, alienated young people, put across with pretty acoustic guitar, wavery vocals, and keyboard. "Long Sleeves for Summer," which isn't so much about doing heroin as publicly baring one's heart, could be this year's "How Soon Is Now?" Star 69 opens at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 885-0750.