Night Light Reading Walt Curtis' book Mala Noche & Other "Illegal" Adventures is like peeking at someone's diary: Its candid narrative is so fascinating you can't put it down, despite a nagging sense that maybe you should. Most people recognize the title from Gus Van Sant's first feature film, a grainy, engrossing black-and-white adaptation of the book, which tells of Curtis' obsessive involvement with two Mexican migrant teens who frequented the skid-row grocery where he worked during the mid-'70s. This rambling, vivid, and often comic account of unrequited love, originally published as a chapbook, is peppered with Spanish phrases and bitter political commentary, and illustrated with sketches and photos of the boys, the neighborhood, and the places in Oregon and Mexico where the action takes place. Mala Noche is an honest rendering of a long-gone time and place, and a contrary combination of misery and beauty. Curtis, a Portland fixture whose poetry cabaret has run for years out of the Old Town punk club Satyricon, inspired Geek Love writer Katherine Dunn with his gritty style and filmmaker Bill Plympton with his often outrageous antics. (Plympton's film Walter Curtis: The Peckerneck Poet premiered in Portland in August.) Curtis reads from Mala Noche (with a new introduction by Van Sant) at 7:30 p.m. at A Different Light, 498 Castro (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 431-0891.
Speed-the-Playwright Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet has given us a vicious fight for survival among salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross; a violent screenplay adaptation of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice; corrupt Hollywood producers in Speed-the-Plow; the effects of changing mores about sexual harassment in academia in Oleanna; and two-bit con men with doomed big dreams in American Buffalo. Feel-good pieces aren't Mamet's forte, and yet he still finds audiences drawn first to his incisive dialogue, dazzling flashes of wit, and palpable dramatic tension; and then, deeper, to the unflinching realism of his portrayals of spiritually bankrupt, morally conflicted people. Examiner film critic Barbara Shulgasser (whose experience in the biz extends to having co-written Pret-a-Porter with Robert Altman) interviews Mamet at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
River Dance Like Japanese butoh company Sankai Juku, husband-and-wife duo Eiko and Koma have made nature an integral part of their work. In River, which premiered this summer in Pennsylvania, nature served both as poetic metaphor and literal stage, as the intrepid movement team presented their work at dusk in rivers and streams in the United States and Japan. River has moved indoors, where the Kronos Quartet plays Somei Satoh's original score live during the piece, but although its look has changed, its meditative essence remains. This version picks up where the other left off -- in darkness -- as Eiko and Koma immerse themselves in cultural perceptions of water as essential element and life force. When this River begins, in total darkness, with no sound save the audience breathing, the stillness that marks Eiko and Koma's choreography seems less of a shock, and more like the natural progression of things. The performance begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at the Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 978-ARTS.
Hot Talk With Live Writer! Herotica editor and noted "sexpert" Susie Bright calls Jack Boulware's book Sex, American Style "shag-alicious!" She's right, of course. Boulware, whose satirical investigative magazine The Nose specialized in news of the weird, and whose SF Weekly column Slap Shots has followed suit with items on PR bloat and dead costumed mice, now treats readers to the hilarious, revolting, and bizarre history of America's sexual revolution. Boulware spent two years compiling anecdotes, excerpts, and illustrations from the '60s and '70s for this entertaining new book, his first. Subtitled "An Illustrated Romp Through the Golden Age of Heterosexuality," Sex, American Style lines up the usual suspects (Linda Lovelace, The Joy of Sex) alongside the unusual (CB Mamas!) and the local (Margo St. James, Good Vibrations, the Mitchell Brothers). The narrative is broken up with amusing quips and quotes, like this assessment of the sexual style of newspaper men from the swinging stewardess memoir Coffee Tea or Me?: "Their approach is often direct, clumsy, distasteful, arrogant, lewd and highly annoying." See for yourself at the book-release party, where go-go dancers and vintage videos are part of the scheduled entertainment. The party begins at 6 p.m. at the Hi-Ball Lounge, 473 Broadway (at Kearny), S.F. Admission is free; call 39-SWING.
Wilde at Heart Queen Victoria and George Bernard Shaw offer their opinions during Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and hustlers stripped down to their underwear testify for the prosecution as the tinkly strains of "Rule Britannia" play over a music box. Ultimately, though, it's the playwright's own wit that undoes him in Victorian England's trial of the century. Writer/director Moises Kaufman not only delivers the story of Wilde's trials -- which began when Wilde sued his lover's father for libel, and culminated in a public discussion of homosexuality -- he makes it feel like a contemporary courtroom drama. A panel of gavel-wielding narrators reads from biographies and newspaper accounts, which the actors take up simultaneously, lending the script multiple perspectives. A modern academic evaluates Wilde's performance in court, and a cadre of international journalists weigh in with contradictory opinions. Actor Michael Emerson reprises his role as Wilde in this touring edition of the acclaimed New York production, which arrives on the heels of Ken Ruta's one-man show Oscar Wilde: Diversions and Delights. The show previews at 8:30 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 4) at Theater on the Square, 450 Post (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $25-39; call 433-9500.