Critical Condition Sickness creeps through Denis Johnson's story collection Jesus' Son like a stealthy burglar, stripping characters of their wits and well-being. Narrated by a man whose life has been wracked by chemical dependencies, the stories unfold in a druggy underworld populated by addicts and thieves. In their second collaboration, theater companies Campo Santo and Word for Word stage two of the stories in Jesus' Son: Emergency and Dundun, using the Word for Word method, which leaves the author's language intact. Morbid comedy propels "Dundun," in which a dead man rots on a couch as his friends get high, watch, and wait for someone to do something. Shades of Drugstore Cowboy emerge in "Emergency," meanwhile, as two hospital night-shift workers ditch strange patients and even stranger doctors and hit the road, fueled by pharmaceuticals they've liberated from the infirmary stash. The show previews at 8 p.m. and runs through Feb. 28; Johnson, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, reads at a benefit performance Feb. 22 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $9-25; call 626-3311.
Let There Be Light Glenn McKay is supposed to be the guy who invented the light show, and if he didn't, he was still the guy who secured its blessing from the establishment. Drawn like a moth to a flame by the light projections of Ken Kesey's "acid tests," McKay began experimenting with biological stains and aniline dyes in the '60s, creating light performances that corresponded with amplified music of the times. In 1968, the Whitney Museum brought the light show above ground, showcasing the groovy creations of McKay's new company Head Lights at a "multisensory evening," which featured live music from Jefferson Airplane and classical pianist Raymond Lewenthall. "Glenn McKay: Altered States -- Light Projections 1966-1996" is a series of four installations from each decade, projected onto a 20-by-16-foot screen. The earliest work is comprised of over 100 parts, including hand-painted slides, color wheels, and overhead projections, set to '60s rock. In the '70s, McKay folded in images of icons and newsmakers like Nixon, followed by geometric patterns and an international musical kaleidoscope in the '80s. The show opens at 11 a.m. (and runs through April 27) at the SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$8; call 357-4000.
My Bloody Valentine Finally, a show that knows what makes relationships tick: neuroses! The newly formed Heroes Theater Company makes its debut with The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, a smart collection of scenes that feels the love in Christopher Durang's manic, analytic comedy Beyond Therapy and Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, in which a woman who comes of age in the counterculture wrangles with her commitment-phobic boyfriend. Quel romantique, as they say. Also on the bill: David Ives' The Sure Thing, a road movie with a guaranteed shag at the end, and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, John Patrick Stanley's drama about a bickering couple (Teatro Shalom is currently staging the full-length version at Noh Space). The 14-member company plans to stage four shows a year after this one, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 14) in an old Victorian attic at 1347 McAllister (at Steiner), Suite C, S.F. Admission is free; call 921-3360 to reserve seats. For a full schedule of Valentine's Day events, see next week's issue.
Blue Notes The Heart Is a Live Thing was choreographer Anne Bluethenthal's first attempt at open-heart surgery: using layers of narrative, distilled movement, and Marc Ream's primal score, she took apart and examined the physical and emotional parts of the human heart. Bluethenthal will be patching pieces of this 2-year-old piece together again for a new concert, "Yucatan Blue and Other Dances," but it may look different since Bluethenthal had her own heart broken. She's debuting the title piece, which begins as a solo and blooms into an ensemble piece, in memory of her friend Marcy Lee Olmsted, a physician who recently died from breast cancer (in his eulogy, Olmsted's husband described her eyes as "Yucatan blue"). The show, which also includes Bluethenthal's duet with dancer Mercy Sidbury, begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 6 p.m.) at Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $13-15 and partial proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Fund; call 522-8793.
Film Noir Growing and caring for dreadlocks is just one part of the education in Nicole Atkinson's 30-minute documentary Lockin' Up. The local indie videomaker digs into history and mines cultures besides her own, collecting childhood anecdotes about "bad hair," unwanted reactions to dreaded hair from family and strangers alike, and the occasional helpful hint (Rastafarians: wash hair with sea water). The film makes its broadcast debut this month (Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.) during KQED's Black History Month programming. California gets additional play in the history doc California's Gold (Feb. 20, 3:30 p.m.), although the schedule is international in scope, with films about a South African dance troupe and a railway line through Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The documentaries Great Day in Harlem (Feb. 25, 10 p.m.), James Baldwin: The Price of a Ticket (Feb. 28, 11 p.m.), and Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice (Feb. 24, 11 p.m.) are among several works spotlighting artists and entertainers. The series begins at 9 p.m. tonight with the screening of Africans in America/The Terrible Transformation on KQED Channel 9. Call 864-2000 for a full schedule of Black History Month programs. For more Black History Month events, see Calendar on Page 32.