This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Now's your chance to finally put that English degree to good use: What great poet (the world's greatest, perhaps) -- hint, hint -- was born on April 23, 1564? That's right, William Shakespeare would've turned 439 today, if that were humanly possible. The Bard's birthday is a time for merriment, but since we can't all make it to Stratford-upon-Avon for the annual parade, we'll have to commemorate the occasion by affecting a clipped British accent, adding the suffix "-th" to every other word, and attending Barnard College professor Peter Platt's lecture, "Shakespeare's Theatre: A Cultural Landscape." Whether you're a traditionalist who believes Willie was responsible for the greatest canon of plays in the world or a conspiracy theorist who believes he was merely a ruse for Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon, you'll find Platt's discussion of Elizabethan society and a playwright's craft enlightening. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post (at Market), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 393-0100 or visit www.milibrary.org.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
It's not often that metalheads find themselves in the same room as shoegazers and emo types, much less at the same concert. But that's the kind of mixed crowd the Party of Helicoptersattracts. Unlike many rock revivalists, the foursome (based out of Kent, Ohio) doesn't sport matching pinstriped suits or a hipper-than-thou attitude. They're just a group of Midwestern good ol' boys who combine heavy metal riffs with melodic, dreamy vocals and poignant lyrics. The band's range is so impressive that it keeps POH from being easily categorized, much to the chagrin of critics and publicists. With influences from Van Halen to My Bloody Valentine, the Party of Helicopters' new album, Please Believe It, is characteristically hard to nail down. It's an intriguing blend of stark instrumentation and complex arrangements that features new drummer Cory Race at his propulsive best. E-Zee Tiger opens for the Party of Helicopters at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (between Post and Sutter), S.F. Admission is $5; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.

Friday, April 25, 2003
In 1989, Finnish writer and director Aki Kaurismäki did not shock the world with Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Sure, he inspired some nutbags to make their own movies, notably Lance Mungia and Jeffrey Falcon, who made Six-String Samurai, but critics were for the most part reviewing other movies. In the interim, Kaurismäki has become internationally respected for his strong vision, deadpan humor, and independent spirit. So for those freaks who howled through LCGA as well as for more mainstream audiences, Kaurismäki offers The Man Without a Past. It's an off-kilter love/amnesia/rock 'n' roll story about a man, a plan, and a Salvation Army band. Critics are friendlier these days: The film was nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Academy Award, and at Cannes, leading lady Kati Outinen nabbed Best Actress and the film itself took the Grand Jury Prize, coming in second only to The Pianist. Watch it at the Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $6-9; call 352-0810, visit www.landmarktheatres.com, or see Page 55 for show times.

Saturday, April 26, 2003
Book lenders have been one of the most vocal groups to speak out against the USA Patriot Act, which (among other things) prohibits libraries and bookstores from informing their patrons if the FBI has sought records about them. One of these protests comes in the form of "The Patriot Library," a collaborative project between future librarian Christy Thomas and the L.A.-based artist collective Finishing School. For the installation, the Lucky Tackle Gallery has been transformed temporarily into a reference library stocked with books, periodicals, and multimedia about subjects that could be deemed "dangerous" in the current political climate. "TPL" allows anonymous access to information about aviation training, bomb making, chemistry, engineering, propaganda, and weapons. It's a bold experiment and one that's sure to be controversial, but librarians aren't hiding behind the stacks. "The Patriot Library" opens today with a reception from 6:30 to 10 p.m. (and runs through May 24) at Lucky Tackle, 6608 San Pablo (at 68th Street), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 484-4373 or visit www.finishing-school.net/patriotlibrary.

Sunday, April 27, 2003
The eponymous main character in Brit Zane's musical comedy The Legend of Shirley Mentalis a cross between Shirley Temple and Rhoda Penmark, the murderous pigtailed girl from the 1956 film The Bad Seed. The play tells the tale of a poor little rich kid who becomes an apple vendor after the Great Depression bankrupts her family. To get away from her financial woes, Shirley and her sidekick Lil' Becky escape to the shelter of the movies -- a Shirley Temple flick, to be exact. The child star's tap-dancing skills and curly ringlets strike a nerve with Shirley Mental, who decides she, too, will become a singing, dancing orphan in the hope of being adopted by rich parents. She learns to sing with the help of Siamese twins and to dance from Gypsies; all that stands in her way are her real parents. A tongue-in-cheek staging by new performance troupe Hardcore Thrush Productions, the show's got it all -- music, mayhem, comedy, and murder. Catch it today at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. for its final performances at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $13; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.

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