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.
Happy Valentine's Day, You Whore! The most romantic day of the year has become ground zero for dueling event promoters, whose gestures toward one another have been anything but romantic since they began squabbling a year ago over rights to the name "Whore Church." Self-proclaimed media whore Chicken John, who orchestrated a series of live performance "churches," claims he came up with the "Whore Church" idea, but agreed to let Exotic Dancers Alliance member Tallulah Bankheist use it once while he was out of town. Bankheist, meanwhile, claims that since she did the first actual "Whore Church" and has continued to do them under that name as charitable benefits, she should have the rights. It's come to the point where legal action has been threatened, reluctant performers have had to pick sides, and Bankheist's 9-year-old son has badgered Chicken over the phone. Why don't they just collaborate? "I'm a goody-two-shoes whore who likes to have people do ludicrous acts onstage to raise money for a good cause," explains Bankheist, who suggests that Chicken's motives are a tad suspect. Chicken agrees: "It's important that I consistently be the biggest asshole I can be," he says in his defense. "Consistency is what people admire -- it's what separates the amateurs from the professionals." Bankheist's "Sleazy Valentine's Day Whore Church," a benefit for the Dolores Street Women's Services Needle Exchange, features a burlesque bingo show MC'd by the Rev. Billy Stoned and music from Fluff Grrrl; it begins at 9:30 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 11th Street & Harrison, S.F. Admission is $7 ($5 for people who donate clothing, blankets, or food, and free to guests who check their clothes at the door); call 487-5199. Just down the street, "Chicken John's Whore Church" also offers bingo, as well as a puppet show with the world's longest sock puppet, and an auto-erotic presentation by Dr. Ducky Doolittle. It begins at 9 p.m. at the Transmission Theater, 11th Street & Folsom, S.F. Admission is $7; call 695-2884. For more Valentine's Day festivities, see our event guide on Page 34.
Or We Could Just Skip the Whole Thing ... There's more to Feb. 14 this year than candy hearts and invective: A Vietnamese Tet New Year's Celebration will be held today as well. If the new year has found you loverless, simply start over with a new new year, one that begins with the first day of the lunar calendar. (Lunar new year traditions vary by Asian country: A Tibetan New Year Losar Festival with circle dances and an incense burning ceremony will be held Feb. 13 at the Asian Art Museum, and Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 16, will be celebrated with public events through the end of the month. Check next week's Calendar for more information.) This is 4697, the Vietnamese Year of the Cat, and though tradition dictates a fresh start through cleaning house, buying new clothes, paying debts, and setting off firecrackers to scare away bad luck, the local celebration has been slightly modified: A holiday mass will be followed by a public feast prepared by the St. Boniface's Vietnamese Mother's Club, and performances by local Vietnamese singers, dancers, and comedians. The mass begins at 3:30 p.m. followed by festivities at 5 p.m. at the St. Boniface Restoration Project, 133 Golden Gate (at Jones), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-2395. Meanwhile, Croatian expatriates celebrate their country's version of Carnaval with the Poklade Festival, where the Slavonian Traveling Band, Seattle's Ruze Dalmatike, and the Loweizanie Polish Dance Ensemble perform. Croatian food will be served at the party, which begins at 3 p.m. at the Slavonic Cultural Center, 60 Onondaga (at Alemany), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call (510) 649-0941.
The End Is Near Complacency threatens to eclipse emerging bacterial strains as public health enemy No. 1, as science writer Laurie Garrett explains in The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. In this exhaustively researched book, Garrett, a former fellow at Harvard's School of Public Health and a longtime medical correspondent for Newsday, tracks not only the modern means by which disease is spread (sex, drugs, war, travel) but the factors accelerating its spread, including political unrest, socioeconomic deprivation, and environmental corruption. Garrett argues that fighting the advance of bacteria and viruses through traditional Western medicine is turning into a pitched battle, since many types of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, and emergent diseases like AIDS and the Ebola virus are proving highly resistant to treatment. While developing countries are a big part of the battleground, Americans are wrong to be smug: Lyme disease, once isolated in Connecticut, has now been diagnosed in 50 states. Garrett speaks at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
Send in the Clowns In the physical comedy tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Bill Irwin, Yury Belov goes beyond the gags and pratfalls of regular clowning to express something of himself and the human condition. In his original comedy Getting-A-Head, the Russian clown and his cast of fellow clowns and actors find the humor and pathos in ambition, that universal compunction to succeed at work and relationships. This type of clowning is not for everyone, particularly Russian bureaucrats: Belov, a performer-turned-political-dissident, gave up his post as the Moscow State Circus director of clowning and moved to the States in 1981, where he picked up a gig at the North Carolina School of the Arts and was put to work in the film Moscow on the Hudson. Yury and director Tanya Belov make their local debut in this show, which previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 7) at the Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson (at Battery), S.F. Admission is $9-22; call 788-