Get on the Bus New York isn't just a location in Bennett Miller's documentary The Cruise; it's more like a central character with whom Miller's protagonist, Timothy "Speed" Levitch, has a consuming love-hate affair. Levitch is a garrulous double-decker tour bus guide, a couch-surfing philosopher whose diatribes ("Note the commuters running toward their destinations and away from themselves. This is ludicrousness and this cannot last") are cut with expertly timed tour-guide banalities ("The new Ann Taylor store is coming up on the right"). Levitch's extended monologue was too much for some filmgoers to take, but others found his stories, laden with historical tidbits and fanciful embellishments, compelling enough to give The Cruise the Audience Award at last year's Newport International Film Festival. Miller and Levitch talk about indie filmmaking and the Big Apple at "The Cruise: Visions of New York," part of the spring lecture series "American Cities in Literature and Film: Urban Spaces, Social Values." The talk begins at 7 p.m. at McLaren Center, Room 250, USF campus, Golden Gate between Parker and Masonic, S.F. Admission is free; call 422-6417.
Bless You Grim as some of Anton Chekhov's work may be, the Russian playwright had a fun-loving side that the People's Republic of Chekhov would like us to know better. They'll be staging The Sneeze, a collection of Chekhov's best-known short pieces and adaptations of his comic fiction, compiled by Noises Off playwright Michael Frayn. The creator of moody, complex classics like Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard could have used some comic relief, certainly; he wrote his first comedies under a pseudonym to put himself through medical school, but the strain of two careers (as he wrote to a friend, "Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress") was partially responsible for his contracting TB, which troubled him until his death at age 44. If gloomy Russian winters and cholera epidemics fueled Chekhov's dramatic works, Russian bureaucracy and human folly informed the lighter side. The Sneeze previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 1) at Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 339-7819. (Expect April to end on a Chekhovian note as well: The Custom Made Theater Company will stage Orchards, a collection of one-acts based on Chekhov short stories, created by modern playwrights including David Mamet and Wendy Wasserstein. It begins April 30 at the Bannam Place Theater. Call 395-8314 for more information.)
Eight Is the Magic Number Club Cocomo is a strange and unusual place. Located just off the bay in Potrero's industrial hinterlands, the space is banked by a garden, tiki torches, a strip of green, and a smattering of old cars. The venue's expansive booking policy allows for salsa lessons and the occasional wake, all taking place under the glassy gazes of life-sized stuffed sheep and a lone yak. Tonight, in this unique setting, Cocomo is presenting "The Rock Never Stops!" -- eight bands for eight bucks, plus an Indian food counter, a little psychedelic grooving out in the back yard with DJ Neil N. Kizmaiazz, and cosmic visuals from the Werepad. JoJo and MK Ultra draw listeners in with wistful pop, while Wilson Gill & the Willful Sinners put a punk spin on honky-tonk; Oranger, Capsule, Dixie Star, the Manchester 5, and John Malady join in. The show starts at 8 p.m. at Club Cocomo, 650 Indiana (at Mariposa), S.F. Admission is $8; call 648-5656, ext. 2.
Ah, Wilderness! Bikers will be keeping one eye on the sky and one eye on the highway during "Biking for the Birds," a leisurely tour led by the Audubon Society and sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. This flat, 10-mile ride rolls past scenic Bay Area spots en route to Arrowhead Marsh, a newly developed Alameda island wildlife refuge; riders will learn about the migration patterns of birds traveling the Pacific flyway, and witness the mating plumage of birds like the horned grebe, which sheds its drab winter ensemble in favor of deep crimson head feathers accented by gold tufts. The search for raptors and snowy plovers concludes with a naturalist-guided stroll through Crab Cove and the adjacent mud flats. The convoy begins at 9:30 a.m. at 1095 Market, above San Francisco's Civic Center BART station, and rolls by rail to the Oakland Coliseum BART station, where it picks up East Bay bicyclists at 10:15. Riders should bring lunch, liquids, and binoculars. Admission is free-$5; call 431-BIKE. That bit of exertion will seem mild compared to the exploits captured by the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Bikers who spend the rest of the day in the East Bay can look forward to a night of outdoor thrills and spills as experienced by sporting extremists. Look for kayakers plunging down Icelandic waterfalls and English climbers scaling Switzerland's Pennine Alps with their bare hands. Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed, meanwhile, offers a bit of levity, as a Colorado town debates what to do with a cryogenically frozen man after his mountain-climbing grandson is deported to Norway. The festival begins at 7 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 527-7377.