Tony! Tony! Tony! Millennial anxiety is spectacularly realized in Tony Kushner's two-part theatrical epic Angels in America, when, at the end of the first part, an angel crashes through a Manhattan ceiling to visit a young man ravaged by AIDS. In Angels, subtitled "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," Kushner found a rare measure of comedy, grace, and redemption in a century's worth of ugliness and uncertainty; the action takes place in 1985, as the world begins to sense doom in AIDS and the implosion of political ideologies. So much has happened since Angels and the Berkeley Rep productions of Kushner's similarly philosophical Slavs! and Hydriotaphia that it will be fascinating to see what the playwright chooses to address in a public presentation. His talks are as famously fast-moving and all-encompassing as his dramas, and as the year 2000 inches ever closer, he's got a wealth of material to work with. Kushner will read from some of his work, followed by an onstage interview with KQED Forum host Michael Krasny, at 7:30 p.m. at Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian, Hayward. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 786-6914.
Join the Circus Voices from the past echo in the modern dance works of Stephen Pelton, a thoughtful choreographer with a knack for historical narrative. America Songbook paired the lonely laments of Civil War soldiers with the drunken roar of an Industrial Age dance hall; The Hurdy-Gurdy Man gave us World War II and Hitler bellowing at an appreciative crowd. With "Animal Acts," another theatrical outing for the Stephen Pelton Dance Theater, the choreographer spins new dances and repertory works into a story about a European circus troupe that falls on hard times after the Second World War. Pelton reprises his Hurdy-Gurdy Man solo in "Acts," which opens with The Training of My Tigers, based on a story by New Zealand writer Janet Frame; Pelton dances it solo, accompanied by Baguette Quartet accordionist Odile Lavault. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 2) at the Z Space Studio, 1360 Mission (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 437-6775.
Staff of Life The Holocaust and World War II are more than 50 years behind us, but we're still discovering just how much music sustained people when the world was crumbling around them. Despite its corniness, the real-life story of the singing Von Trapp family adapted to The Sound of Music continues to resonate, as does The Harmonists, this year's feature film about the mixed Jewish-gentile singing group whose breakup was precipitated by the Nazi rise to power. Now, Voci Women's Choral Ensemble brings us "Beneath the Whiteness of Your Stars: Musical Reflections on the Holocaust." This is music performed not by famous singing groups, but by regular folk, including an arrangement of Yiddish songs from the concentration camps and ghettos. Michael Isaacson's choral cycle Cradle of Fire features arrangements of five Holocaust songs; Viktor Ullmann's Five Folksongs for Women's Voices was written in the Terezin Ghetto in 1942. Violist Michelle Dulak, pianist Danielle DeSwert, and cellist Lyn Fulkerson accompany the ensemble at the concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit, Oakland. Admission is $12-16; call (510) 663-9113. Voci also performs at 3 p.m. Sunday at Temple Sherith Israel, 2266 California, in San Francisco.
Bring in Spring The old ad slogan "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" probably wasn't inspired by the Greek myth of Demeter, although it easily could have been. The harvest goddess, sometimes referred to as Mother Earth, wasn't happy when Hades ran off with her daughter, Persephone, and as punishment for his trickery, Demeter wrathfully forbade crops to grow until a nervous Zeus intervened, telling Hades that if he didn't let Persephone at least visit her mother, they'd all be doomed. The three months that Persephone spends with Hades is winter, the myth suggests; we can enjoy nature's bounty when Persephone and Demeter are reunited. The myth of Demeter (fleshed out more thoroughly, one hopes, than it is here) is included in an international collection of stories about spring that Combined Art Form Entertainment, or CAFE, stages word for word in the musical production Spring Returns. Among the other accounts of seasonal rebirth is a Yugoslavian tale of a dead man who returns to pay his debt. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at the Next Stage, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 673-0304. Spring Returns also shows April 30 through May 2 at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F.
Drawn That Way Just try to make it through this weekend's WonderCon comic book and animation convention without thinking about that snotty comics store owner from The Simpsons. Actually, Simpsons artist/writer Bill Morrison will be attending the convention, and if he plans to take notes for future episodes involving the store owner and his network of online pals, he won't lack for material. Not that there won't be some nominally cool stuff: Dark Horse will introduce the artist for Betty Page Comics and the writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Japanese anime tables should satisfy the cravings of American converts. Eventually, though, amid the middle-aged connoisseurs debating the finer points of Captain America, the 12-year-old boys swarming around the new video game displays, and the meet-and-greet with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Chase Masterson, the geek alarm is bound to ring. Doors open at noon (also 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday) at the Oakland Convention Center, 550 10th St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Admission is free-$12; call (510) 762-2277.