Children are among the few who can enjoy French mime Marcel Marceauunironically: The rest of us have been ruined by mimecidal pop culture (think Shakes the Clown) and by the American boycott of all things French.But kids are generally uninformed and therefore better equipped to appreciate how Marceau, with a dancer's grace and keen comic timing, can flesh out whole worlds by himself, sharing indelible tales without speech (except for his appearance in Mel Brooks' 1976 film Silent Movie, in which he got the last, and only, word: "No!"). Since 1947, the Strasbourg-born Marceau has played Bip, a regular guy who, in his striped shirt and bell-bottoms, is by turns befuddled, ingenious, love-struck, and jaunty. His butterfly-catching, train-hopping antics recall, deliberately, another beloved silent icon: Charlie Chaplin.
Marceau's form of distilled storytelling reveals a faithful translator of body language, gesture, and expression. His influence is so broad that nearly anyone can enact his most famous "mimodramas" without having seen him perform. And after this year, we'll no longer have the chance: Now 80, Marceau has embarked on one last tour before the whiteface comes off for good. See him at 3 p.m. at the Marin Center Veterans' Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags (at Civic Center), San Rafael. Admission is $20-50; call 472-3500. --Heather Wisner
San Francisco Mime Troupe is quite outspoken. The group doesn't mince words when it skewers social injustices and the follies of our leaders, making its free agitprop productions a much-admired summer tradition. When the company's not out rabble-rousing, it's training future generations to be just as forthright through its Youth Theater Festival, an eight-week workshop during which loudmouthed high-schoolers are taught to enunciate for art's sake. At the end of it all, the teens put on a short play -- and not just another take on Romeo and Juliet, either. This year's show couldn't be more current: It's called "Conflict: Near and Far." Catch it Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Diego Rivera Theater, 50 Phelan (at Judson), S.F. Free admission; call 285-1717. --Lisa Hom