Comedy Is Not Pretty

The shocking similarities between witty, debonair playwright Oscar Wilde and inadvertently hilarious, garishly costumed pianist Liberace finally emerge in Gross Indulgences: The Trials of Liberace, which playwright F. Allen Sawyer was inspired to write after managing the box office for Moises Kaufman's blockbuster Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Like Wilde, Liberace initiated a lawsuit defending himself against charges of homosexuality; unlike Wilde, Liberace won his case, and continued to enjoy the kind of popularity that ultimately manifests itself in a Las Vegas theme museum.

Sawyer has crafted a comedy that echoes Kaufman's drama, juxtaposing transcripts from Liberace's libel suit against Scott Thorson (the young man who sued him for palimony) with text from '50s scandal mags and autobiographical propaganda from the eminently quotable king of kitsch himself. The Hot Pants Homo Players stage the show, which opens at 8 p.m. Thursday (and runs through Oct. 10) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 861-8972.

Sawyer's isn't the only fall production to evoke history in the name of bad taste and good fun: Drag diva Charles Busch, who penned and starred in the off-Broadway hits Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party, affectionately parodies the selfless, seductive heroines of World War II propaganda films with The Lady in Question, which features comic Doug Holsclaw as concert pianist Gertrude Garnet. The show, which opens Theater Rhino's '98-99 season, previews at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday (and runs through Oct. 10) at Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $12-21; call 861-5079.

And finally, playwright John Fisher, whose previous historical treatments have included the painfully funny Medea, the Musical, returns with another bloodbath-turned-musical comedy: Titus! In this adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, the victorious general of the original returns to Rome to find his sons beheaded and his daughter mutilated, but from then on, the payback (an epic battle between Romans and Goths, a cannibals' feast) falls somewhere in between classic drama and modern slasher films. It opens at 7 p.m. Saturday (and runs through Sept. 27) in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Gardens, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 978-

 
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