Death Takes a Holiday New Yorker readers may remember director Michael Blakemore's harrowing account of staging the one-act play collection "Death Defying Acts," an essentially death-defying undertaking that was continually hindered by the cast, the backers, and the playwrights (Elaine May, Woody Allen, and David Mamet), all of whom needed lots of personal attention during development. Blakemore, and the off-Broadway production itself, survived that theatrical trial by fire, and "Acts" will make its West Coast debut in the Aurora Theater Company's seventh season opener. Director Tom Ross (who has produced seven Solo Mio festivals and directed A Karen Carpenter Christmas, among other productions) takes Blakemore's place, running actors like Lucinda Hitchcock Cone and Warren Keith through the bitterly comic death-themed dramas. Allen's Central Park West offers the standard adulterous affairs and shrink jokes, while May's abrasive Hotline concerns a suicidal prostitute whose problems stump the novice hot line operator who answers her call for help. In Mamet's An Interview, a sleazy lawyer must defend his profession, and by extension, his life. The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 1) at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Dana), Berkeley. Admission is $20-25; call (510) 843-4822.
Music Men While the San Francisco Opera celebrates the opening of its 76th season with the newly commissioned opera A Streetcar Named Desire, the Gay Men's Chorus is celebrating its 20th with the newly commissioned choral work Q. It's been two decades since the chorus' very public debut on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall, where the formerly informal group of music lovers congregated to sing in honor of slain city officials George Moscone and Harvey Milk. The show begins at 8 p.m. tonight at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $10-50; call 864-6000. The following day, Streetcar conductor Sir Andre Previn reprises the symphony's opening night gala with "We Got Rhythm: George Gershwin Centennial Celebration," in which he and bassist David Finck do Gershwin hits for a concert benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Ira and Lenore S. Gershwin Theater, Turk & Masonic, USF campus. Admission is $35-75; call 487-3060.
All's Fair More than the Haight Street Fair, which has become gradually indistinguishable from the city's scores of neighborhood block parties; more than Halloween and Carnaval, which are hugely popular in several other cities; more, even, than its bigger but less kinky cousin the Gay Pride Parade, the Folsom Street Fair says "San Francisco." It does so with the city's language of community, offering a vivid cross-section of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, straight, leather-S/M, and fetish folks. It confirms the cheerfully unabashed hedonism that the East Coast and the Bible Belt have always suspected of Californians. It's where the city's reputation for sexual openness and creativity manifests itself in the hairy, welt-covered back of a bearish man in chaps all the way down to a little plastic Ken doll done up in a miniature kilt and tiny leather restraints. Enrique, Black Kali Ma, Most Chill Slack Mob, and several other groups entertain throughout the day at the fair, which begins at 11 a.m. on Folsom between Seventh and 12th streets, S.F. Admission is free-donation; call 861-3247.
Sympathy for the Devils They've been accused of snotty-nosed punkishness, and that's just fine by Seattle's Murder City Devils, who wrote the stinging ode "Get Off the Floor" for today's disaffected clubgoers ("If you're not gonna dance/ Get off the floor/ People like you/ Are what the balcony's made for"). The snarling, short-fused blast of punk's first wave stubbornly reasserts itself in the Devils' brew: distorted guitars, the creepy strains of vintage B-movie Farfisa organ, a boom-chugga-boom backbeat, and the plaster-cracking vocals of singer Spencer Moody, who single-mindedly launches himself into songs with a raw, ragged howl worthy of Scratch Acid-era David Yow. KUSF co-sponsors the live show, which coincides with this week's release of the band's second album Empty Bottles Broken Hearts on the Sub Pop offshoot label Die Young Stay Pretty. The Black Market Babies open at 10 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-5016. (To get an idea of Sub Pop's new musical range, take in Saturday's show with the Spinanes, the former duo turned revolving foursome-or-so, whose sly, melodic storytelling draws listeners the way the Devils offer them cathartic release. Itchy Kitty opens the show at 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $8; call 621-4455.)
Broadway Babies When Chicago's Broadway revival swept last year's Tony Awards, one of the prizes went to choreographer Ann Reinking, a Bob Fosse favorite who stayed true to Fosse's original showy jazz-dance vision (the Fosse biopic All That Jazz echoes the Chicago song "All That Jazz"). The touring production of Chicago is also long on Broadway history: Charlotte d'Amboise, daughter of the former ballet great Jacques and a Tony nominee herself for her role in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, plays Roxie Hart, the showgirl who kills her lover. Brent Barrett plays Billy Flynn, the lawyer who spins public sympathy in Roxie's favor and ultimately gets her acquitted; like the younger d'Amboise and her dad, Barrett also danced for Robbins, making his Broadway debut as Tony in West Side Story. The show offers a bit of real-life history as well: Reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins covered the murder trials of two cabaret singers for the Chicago Tribune and based her 1926 play on their stories. Chicago previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 7) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Admission is $27-72; call 776-1999.