Though conventional wisdom dictates that songs about child abuse do not make radio hits, Suzanne Vega managed to disprove that theory with her 1987 tune "Luka." A fictional first-person account of a kid on the wrong end of a fist, the unlikely hit single was Vega's greatest commercial success in her two-decades-long career. The song made her a star, and she, in turn, opened the door for numerous female singer/songwriters to come.
"Luka" was no fluke, though: Solitude Standing, the album it came from, went platinum. Since then, Vega has chiefly stuck to her roots, playing with the same quiet dignity and low-key stage presence with which she first made a name for herself. But despite Vega's recognizable sound, she's never been easy to pin down. When her brief foray into electronic music in the '90s (99.9° F) failed to make the grade, she focused her attention on other mediums, releasing a collection of poems and essays (The Passionate Eye) and hosting the "American Mavericks" series on public radio.
Vega takes stock of her career on her third best-of collection, Retrospective, released this April. After listening to this diverse 21-track anthology -- featuring everything from folk classics ("Marlene on the Wall," from her debut, eponymous album) to dance music (DNA's club remix of "Tom's Diner," from Solitude) to Latin jazz ("Caramel," from the soundtrack to the film The Truth About Cats & Dogs) -- no one could accuse her of being a one-trick pony. Suzanne Vega performs at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary, S.F. Admission is $26.50; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com.
-- Lisa Hom
A Night of Noir
San Francisco is a city built for noir. With its fog-shrouded nights and practically unmappable hidden nooks and crannies, it's a place where you can easily imagine Sam Spade or Mike Hammer pulling heat on some dumb mug who won't give up the straight dope. If you understood that last sentence, you're a prime candidate for "Savage Eye," an evening of four original short plays by Hal Savage that recall the steamy, seamy crime dramas of the 1940s and 1950s, complete with hard-boiled private eyes, double-dealing perps, mysterious murders, and dangerous dames. The plays open at 8 tonight and run through Aug. 16 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 364-3070 or visit home.mindspring.com/~savage-eye.
-- Joyce Slaton
Ride the Bomb
Nuclear annihilation can be funny
The anti-American piece of commie pinko propaganda Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombhas been a source of delight to queers, anarchists, and draft dodgers for going on 40 years now. Its latest incarnation, Dr. Strangelove: The Play, stars a number of San Francisco's favorite degenerate freaks -- among them Dr. Hal, m.i. blue, and Haggis Young -- who team up to bring you the best in disrespectful theater.
As an allegory about traditional U.S. masculinity and its irrational fears, Dr. Strangelove satirizes authority in general and makes a case for, um, fluid retention. After all, these bizarre times deserve a bizarre response. It begins this weekend (and continues Aug. 1 and 2) at 10 p.m. at Gallery Spanganga, 3376 19th St., S.F. Admission is $11.50-15; call 821-1102 or visit www.spanganga.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
A Room of Our Own
Stripping down in North Beach
Finally, there's justice in the world: "A Room With the View" has little to do with Helena Bonham Carter's movie of a similar name. In fact, the event has far more in common with Bonham Carter's character in Fight Club, in that it's a "revue" of male exotic dancers, for women only. About time! Men find it refreshing to ogle the fairer sex in a highly structured, for-profit environment, so why shouldn't ladies feel the same? Think of all the reasons he's told you the strip clubs and bachelor parties were no big deal. Now's your chance to use "It doesn't mean anything" and "Why are you so insecure?" on him. Keep your eyes peeled starting at 9 p.m. at Broadway Studios, 475 Broadway (at Columbus), S.F. Admission is $25, call 928-2888 or visit www.aroomwiththeview.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Card tricks have been a part of the standard magician's repertoire since the 16th century. These days, such low-tech stunts may not be as big a draw as, oh, somebody willing to entomb himself in a Plexiglas coffin, but humble illusions still pack a punch. This is particularly the case if the card master is Kostya, the youthful conjurer who weaves parables, philosophical tales, and political commentary around his astonishing card capers. He appears in San Francisco for one night only in "Intimate Magic," an evening of close-up sorcery with Kostya and other illusionists. The show starts at 8 at the Stanyan Park Hotel, 750 Stanyan (at Waller). Admission is $15; call 771-6606.
-- Joyce Slaton