Get an Eyeful The symbiotic relationship between Sam Shepard and the Magic Theater began in 1970 when the theater debuted the playwright's edgy travelogue La Turista; five years later, Shepard took up residency and premiered many of his early works there, including True West, Fool for Love, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Buried Child, an unflinching look at the inner workings of a family that garnered praise for author and theater alike. Shepard, a veteran of screen acting (The Right Stuff, Steel Magnolias) as well as stage writing, has returned to the fold with his newest work, Eyes for Consuela, the dramatic tale of a life-altering encounter between an American businessman who flees to Mexico after a painful estrangement from his wife, and a rural Mexican man hunting for a gruesome gift to offer his beloved. The show, an adaptation of the Octavio Paz story "The Blue Bouquet," suggests that any love worth having will hurt you in the end -- its West Coast debut previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 28) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $8-32; call 441-8822.
But He'd Really Like to Direct Adult entertainer Jeff Stryker is striking out, as it were, from porn films to live theater, and in an effort to make him sound more like a legitimate thespian, his camp is trying to downplay his extensive cinematic history. But why? He's practically a one-man industry, with one of that genre's highest salaries and nearly 40 film titles to his credit. Gay viewers applauded Powertool and Santa's Cummin'; straight viewers went for Orgy on the Ranch; and both sides snapped up the life-sized plastic products inspired by Stryker's huge ... appeal. He made an easy transition from sound stage to live stage last summer, when he appeared in Ronnie Larson's all-male production Peep Show in New York. Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time further capitalizes on his assets: This "dark and sexy prison comedy" features a buff, all-male cast as inmates who act like beasts behind bars. The show contains full nudity, strong language, and sexual situations, a formula that continues to work beautifully for its star. Hard Time opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 7) at the Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $30-40; call 863-7576.
The Way We Woo The language of love, lavishly illustrated and handsomely bound, waits to be read aloud at the 32nd annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair. How do literary lovers express their ardor? Let us count the ways: 1) Antique valentines with flowery sentiments. 2) Shakespeare sonnets printed on vellum. 3) "An Hymne, In Honour of Love," from Spenser's fanciful Faerie Queen. 4) Historic photos of famous couples. 5) The Song of Songs Which Is Solomon's, illustrated and illuminated by Valenti Angelo. 6) Walt Kelly's Pogo: Prisoner of Love. 7) William Morris' The Story of Cupid and Psyche, with engravings and woodcuts by Edward Burne-Jones. And so on .... Romantic tomes, photos, and assorted memorabilia will be shown and sold at the fair, which begins at 3 p.m. (and at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) at the Concourse Exhibition Center, Eighth Street & Brannan, S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 551-5190.
It'll Give You the Wilis There are two stories to be told now that Ballet Nacional de Cuba has embarked on its first major U.S. tour in over 20 years. One is the 150-year-old romantic ghost story Giselle, which the company brings with it: Unrequited love leads to hair-tearing madness, and later, fatalities in the classic star-making ballet, which holds daunting dramatic and technical challenges for its dancers. The second story concerns the company itself, founded by former ballerina Alicia Alonso, who, though nearly blind, danced solo roles with American Ballet Theater, and was a famed Giselle in her day -- she still oversees the current production of Giselle and its ghost Wilis at the advanced age of 77. Alonso realized her childhood ambition to start a Cuban ballet school and company in 1948, but since Fidel Castro took office, politics have prevented the dancers from visiting more often. Alonso's style, however, lives on internationally in her students, including S.F. Ballet's Joan Boada (for comparison's sake, see S.F. Ballet's production of Giselle later this season). The show begins at 8 p.m. (also 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-42; call (510) 642-9988.
Creature Features If it croaks or flaps or makes people squeamish, it has its own show this week. African clawed frogs and fire-bellied toads are among the 20 different international frog and toad species represented in the interactive exhibit "Frogs," which enumerates important frog facts in a series of activity stations. Special software offers a high school biology refresher course on frog innards; step into a rainy wetlands filled with the echo of frog calls, and it's almost like actually being a little amphibian. Find out what separates frogs from toads, and what the former represented in medieval European mythology (answer: evil demons). And did you know that frogs have teeth? The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and runs through Sept. 12) at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. Admission is free-$9; call 561-0363. Special events including a frog film series and Zuni frog dancers are planned throughout the exhibit's run. Most of us know what bats represent in popular mythology, and the interactive exhibit "Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats" has some fun with the vampire lore by re-creating a gargoyle-flanked neo-Gothic castle, where creepy organ music plays and everything appears upside down. Kids can hang like bats or try on bat ears 20 times their normal size to hear what bats hear, and a simulated rain forest offers myth-busting tidbits on bat behavior. Rumors of bloodsucking have been greatly exaggerated, but a small brown bat can slurp down 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in an hour. Now, who's your friend? The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. (and runs through May 2) at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$8.50; call 750-7145.