There are no pricey sets, no eye-candy chorus boys and girls, no sultry costumes in Elaine Stritch at Liberty. Oh, and there's one more thing lacking in this revealing look at a Broadway baby's checkered career: bullshit. The septuagenarian theater veteran comes clean, spitting out gossipy tales and belting out songs in a one-woman show that's just a stage, a chair, and her own priceless reminiscences from days on Broadway (Pal Joey and Call Me Madam) and in Hollywood (A Farewell to Arms).
For instance: her weird first-and-only date with the delicious young Marlon Brando, who took her to the library, to church, and then to his apartment, where the virginal Stritch infuriated him by vehemently refusing his advances. She also tells the tale of dumping Ben Gazzara for Rock Hudson ("... and we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be"), of all-night drinking binges with Judy Garland, of her epic battles with The Women co-star Gloria Swanson, and of hearing from Richard Burton that she was irresistible onstage -- and utterly forgettable off it.
If it all seems a bit too much like a talk show-style confessional, hang on to your hat -- the thread that connects Stritch's confessions is her struggle with alcohol, which raged unabated from her first sublimely satisfying sip of a whiskey sour at age 13 right through a near-fatal diabetic coma in the 1980s. Oprah-esque, no? No. Reviewers insist that Stritch's brassy bray and earthy, profanity-laced tales cut through the potential treacle with enviable zip. The show runs July 15-27 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $35-78; call 551-2075 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. -- Joyce Slaton
Round and Round
Mandalas -- sacred circles suggesting elements of life as infinitesimal as nuclei and as vast as the cosmos -- serve, in spiritual traditions worldwide, as conduits to meditation (our own Grace Cathedral offers a labyrinth based on the concept). Choreographer Murray Spalding has created a series of contemporary dance mandalas, kaleidoscopic, looping works for groups -- and now, for a soloist. Tricia Brouk of the Lucinda Childs company performs Mandala VIII. We're curious to see how Spalding's Western reading works with the museum's video of Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala painting. Brouk performs at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Asian Art Museum, S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 581-3500. -- Heather Wisner
What do a urinal, a fur-lined teacup, and metal covered in dust have in common? They're all examples of the art of Dada, born in 1916 to protest war, rampant greed, and the corrupt powers that plagued the world. Free the absurdist in you at Dada Fest, where eccentric artists and peculiar performances tantalize and perhaps torment your senses: performers, or whatever, include Fudgie Frottage, Puppets and Pie, and Kitten on the Keys. Get your yayas and dadas out starting at midnight Friday (and continuing until midnight on Saturday) at SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, S.F. Admission is $7-10; call 861-1554 or visit www.dadafest.com. -- Sunny Andersen
People convicted of crimes like bank robbery, espionage, conspiracy, and murder are written aboutoften enough. "Writing Behind Bars: An Evening of Prison Lit" lets them produce the copy, in a showcase of excerpts from their own stories. Joe Loya's The Parole of Buddha Lobo will be published next year; Michael Wayne Hunter's work has appeared in major newspapers; and Marilyn Buck is a PEN award winner. Fans of Jean Genet will be interested to hear of Morton Sobell, author of On Doing Time, who was arrested as part of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spying case. Readings begin at 9 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 885-4074 or visit www.litquake.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser