The rugged man who once strode through Yerba Buena Theater revving a chain saw (in 29 Effeminate Gestures) and exclaiming, "He's a good guy! He's a good, good guy!" is at it again. With the world premiere of Folk, Joe Goode continues to explore small-town ambitions and big-city fears through his text-heavy theatrical dance works. Folk is the second installment in a trilogy that began last year with Mythic Montana, a homespun tale of wide-open places echoing with Greek tragedy and heroism. In Folk, Goode and his talented six-member crew again meander through a contemporary Wild West, where ranchers, drifters, and urban expats make uneasy neighbors, and pie-slinging waitresses sass the customers between daydreams about singing careers. Beth Custer composed the music for the piece, which shares the bill with last year's Transparent Body, in which Goode plays both a soul-searching youngster and his good-ol'-boy pop. It's been a long journey for Goode, a former Margaret Jenkins company member who, since 1979, has incorporated the spare, sweeping athleticism of that modern style with song and story. He veers between scorn and affection for what many San Franciscans left behind -- Middle America and the mind-set that, fairly or not, we equate with it. Goode also finds beauty in what he presents as ordinary, even distasteful, memorably in 1998's Deeply There (Stories of a Neighborhood). In the piece, an S.F. man's neighbors gathered as his lover was dying; one of the best bits was Goode's drunken roll on, off, under, and behind a couch with his lover's homophobic Minnesotan sister. Her shrill monologue was subsumed by the grief-fueled lyricism of their inebriated peace accord, evidence that sometimes folks say things best when they just stop talking. The Joe Goode Performance Group presents Folk and Transparent Body at 8 p.m. (performances continue through June 29) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $20-35; call 978-2787 or visit www.yerbabuenaarts.org.
-- Heather Wisner
No. 1, for a Price
During a poorly budgeted backpacking trip through Europe, Greg Kotis tried to save money by not patronizing the pay-per-use public bathrooms in Paris. Unfortunate as this dilemma was at the time, it led to something greater -- the inspiration for librettist Kotis and composer Mark Hollmann's Tony Award—winning show, Urinetown, The Musical. A witty homage to political musical theater, the play is both a parody of Broadway traditions and a tribute to them, imagining what would happen if a severe drought made it illegal for people to tinkle without permission. Previews begin tonight at 8 at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $16-66; call 749-2228.
-- Lisa Hom
Cynicism's Not Dead
In America, the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right, but the attainment of such an elusive goal is not. If it were, bookstores wouldn't be packed with tedious tomes by Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopra. The question of what would happen if these gurus lived up to their promises forms the basis of Happiness, Will Ferguson's novel about a self-help guide rescued from the slush pile that becomes an international best-seller. Ferguson predicts a dismal future if the world becomes a better place, envisioning a lackluster society in which no one has sex, drinks, or works. Heaven forbid. The free reading begins at 7:30 p.m. at Cody's Books, 2454 Telegraph, Berkeley; call (510) 845-7852.
-- Lisa Hom
The acknowledged godfather of today's sweet, unmasculine indie rock, Nick Drake was emo before there was emo. The man himself has been gone for many years, the victim of an apparent suicide, but his haunting melodies and guitar style have stayed with us, and he's currently more popular than he ever was during his short life. Tonight, a lineup of San Francisco's lo-fi royalty performs at "Hanging on a Star: A Tribute to Nick Drake." Seven acts, including Vervein and Charles Atlas, take the stage beginning at 8:30 at the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $8; call 647-2888 or visit www.makeoutroom.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser