The Good Fight Which is harder: doing Napoleon in disco drag and turning a Greek tragedy about matricide into a musical comedy, or proving that you can do serious drama with that kind of track record? That's the question facing playwright John Fisher, who follows up his very funny hit show Medea, the Musical with Combat! An American Melodrama, a sobering piece about gay and lesbian military personnel serving during World War II. Combat!, which travels from boot camps and drag queen balls to battlefields, beachheads, and psych wards, is laced with black humor, but Fisher, a dramatic arts doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, based his story on six years of extensive research into the experiences of gay and lesbian enlistees, which turned up some distinctly unpleasant incidents. The 1996 Berkeley premiere of Combat! nonetheless met with enthusiastic critical acclaim, and the show will open locally with a preview at 8 p.m. (and run through March 14) at the Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $15-24; call 621-7797.
Big Wheel Skateboarding has been part of photographer Tobin Yelland's life for so long that his pictures document every last aspect of its culture, from the broad shot of kids drying off a wet half-pipe by lighting it on fire to a close-up of one guy's scraped chin and busted lip. Yelland, a skateboarder himself, began taking pictures of his friends when he was just 14; now that he's in his late 20s, he has amassed a considerable body of work, independently and on assignment for Spin and Paper. Yelland doesn't just do skate shots -- his photos of Hell's Angels and cops hung in New York's White Columns gallery, and he just finished working as a still photographer on Another Day in Paradise, the new film by his teacher, Larry Clark, who put the skateboarders Yelland introduced him to in his movie Kids -- but skateboarding-related candid shots dominate the exhibit "Tobin Yelland: Skateboarders," which opens with a reception at 7 p.m. at ESP Gallery, 305 Valencia (at 14th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 252-8191.
Ain't Love Grand? Actor Bruce Pachtman knew the party was over when his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend's parting words were "Don't make me look too psychotic." Too late, Pachtman might have countered; unlike most people who merely complain to their friends about psycho ex-lovers, Pachtman had already written a one-man comedy show loosely based on his experiences with one, and called it Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic. The piece, in which he plays several characters and struggles to make himself look sane in the process, shows at "2 Out of 3," a collection of three one-man comedy shows with variations on a love theme. Stand-up comedian Fred Raker, a former writer for The Tonight Show, contributes It Could Have Been a Wonderful Life, about a young comedian who learns to love himself through John Bradshaw seminars, a guardian angel, and the love of his wife. And finally, a scrawny kid from the wrong side of the tracks confronts his hard-drinking stepdad and a 230-pound fullback in his pursuit of the high school homecoming princess in writer/performer Randy Rutherford's I Left My Heart in Weaverville, which played last year's Fringe Festival. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 14) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10; call 626-2169.
Book Smart The leaking Concourse Exhibition Center roof wasn't such a big deal at last month's hot rod show, despite torrential rains and expensive customized cars, but the San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print, and Paper Fair had better pray for clear skies or a good patching job before its vendors have settled in. Dealers from the United States, Canada, and Europe traffic in thousands of old and rare books, prints, and maps dating as far back as the 14th century. Collectors can also scope out first editions and a juicy selection of vintage pulp fiction, food and wine books, children's books, photography tomes, and more. The fair begins at 10 a.m. (also Sunday) at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, Seventh & Brannan streets, S.F. Admission is $5; call 441-4290.
Joy Ride About the time weekend bikers are strapping their Hard Rocks to the top of the car and heading up to Mount Tam, people whose bikes are their cars will be pulling up to the valet two-wheeler parking at the third annual Bicycle Film and Video Festival, a daylong celebration of biking life. There will be singing of bike songs, bike acrobatics by Lebor Karas, bike performance art, and films, videos, commercials, shorts, and animation related to biking. A silent auction will include gear from local bike shops, and food and beverages will be sold at the festival, a benefit for the Bay Area biking resource group the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition. It all begins at 3 p.m. at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck (at Prince), Berkeley. Admission is $5-10; call (510) 704-5599.
Guerrilla Tactics Along with Post headlines, the hell- and consciousness-raising pranks of the Guerrilla Girls have left Manhattanites with some lasting lines. For the past 10 years, the Girls, rumored to include a number of artists and gallery owners, have attracted staunch supporters and stiff opposition by plastering NYC with agitprop and materializing at art auctions, gallery openings, and other tony affairs wearing gorilla masks and bearing altered artworks that skewer hypocrisy and chauvinism in the art world, either through pointed fact or flippancy, like the poster that read "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met?" (A few people are still unclear on the concept: When the Girls traveled to France, a publicity-hungry gallery director was reluctant to discuss women artists represented at his venue, but he did volunteer to be kidnapped by the Girls for dramatic effect.) Now the collective has come out with The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art, which highlights women's contributions to the art world and their years-long exclusion from it, along with reproductions of famous works that have been enhanced for what the group considers historical accuracy. The Girls discuss the book at 7:30 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at McAllister) in Opera Plaza, S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670.
Anything Else Is Crap ScotsFest '98, a tourism booster billing itself as a cultural festival, reminds us that "some of the most popular films in America have been produced in Scotland." Unfortunately, these include Mary Reilly, with Irish-accent-impaired Julia Roberts as Dr. Jekyll's cleaning lady, and Greystoke, the Tarzan remake starring grunting Frenchman Christopher Lambert. To be fair, the sweetly unassuming love story Gregory's Girl was also filmed against the scenic Scottish countryside, with actual Scottish actors. None of these, though, will be showing at the "Spotlight on Scottish Film," which opens with a collection of shorts programmed by the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Scottish Screen, including comic works like Magic Moments, Waterloo, and Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, along with striking pieces like Butterfly Man. Trainspotting, Danny Boyle's harrowing and bitterly funny portrait of Edinburgh junkie subculture, gave us Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor and is one of Scotland's best-known cinematic exports to date, but the program also includes the time-tested, internationally acclaimed comedies Local Hero, Bill Forsyth's film about an oil company executive who attempts to buy a Scottish fishing village, and Whisky Galore (also called Tight Little Island), a 1949 film about the World War II-era escapades of a Scottish island town after a ship carrying 50,000 cases of whiskey runs aground nearby. The program begins at 5 p.m. with the shorts, followed by Local Hero at 6:30 p.m., Whisky Galore at 8:40 p.m., and Trainspotting at 10:30 p.m. (and repeats Feb. 17 and 24) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $6; call 441-3687.