This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, October 8, 2003
The typical drag "tribute" is anything but. While impersonators may genuinely admire the icon they're aping, onstage that affection can be transformed into mockery, as the faux showgirl leers and mugs her way through the portrayal, choosing comic effect over genuine mimicry. But as talented Obie Award winning theater artist John Kelly proves in Shiny Hot Nights: More Songs of Joni Mitchell, the performer-as-parrot gig doesn't have to turn into a snide simulacrum. Kelly reproduces Mitchell's breathy singing and stage patter at the height of her folk diva days, donning a long blond wig, a dress, and a guitar to inhabit her persona with such reverent skill that the casual viewer might forget it's not the singer/songwriter herself. Kelly's accompanying keyboardist and backup singer, Zecca Esquibel, joins the show in the guise of Mitchell's pal, the late painter Georgia O'Keeffe. Nice touch. The show starts at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $20; call 863-9834 or visit www.odctheater.org.

Thursday, October 9, 2003
The gory/giggly horror/comedy dichotomy of many of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films serves as a perfect metaphor for the director himself. On the one hand, he was responsible for some of our best cinematic moments, creating flicks that were thrilling, probing, menacing, and flat-out satirically funny. On the other, the Master of Suspense was a two-timing heel who took a sadistic pleasure in controlling, flirting with, and even outright harassing his icy-blond leading ladies. Author Patrick McGilligan, mindful of Hitch biographies that have presented the man as either a sainted genius or a worthless cad, embraces both sides of the filmmaker's complex personality, teasing out the ways in which Hitchcock's personal demons shaped his celluloid vision. McGilligan reads from his book, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, at 6 p.m. at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post (at Market), S.F. Admission is $5-7; call 393-0101 or visit www.milibrary.org.

Friday, October 10, 2003
The Brady Bunch was already in TV syndication heaven in 1991, when sisters Jill and Faith Soloway picked up the show's premise, dusted it off, and brought back the Brady smarm with line-for-line re-creations of classic episodes for sellout stage crowds in The Real Live Brady Bunch. Producer/director Christian McLaughlin hopes to perform similar magic with Phacts of Life, the show that begins where the '80s sitcom left off. In Phacts' camp universe, the Eastland schoolgirls are no longer squeaky-clean ciphers whose only worries revolve around boys and homework. Instead, spot-on cast members (including the incomparable comic Julie Brown) revel in lesbian subtexts, politically incorrect jokes about the disabled, and digs at the Man Upstairs. The blaspheming begins at 8 and 10:30 tonight and tomorrow at the Harvey Milk Institute, 100 Collingwood (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $20-30; call 552-7200 or visit www.harveymilk.org.

Saturday, October 11, 2003
Sure, Gene Simmons comes off like an insufferable asshole. When he's not busy hawking Kiss credit cards, panties, and -- oh, dear Lord -- Kiss Kaskets (which double as coolers), he's typically raving about the joys of sleeping with thousands of female fans. Nonetheless, we have to admit we hold a special place in our heart for him. We love his cheesy black-leather-and-chains faux menace, his supposedly 7-inch tongue, and most of all, his bold demand for the right to rock 'n' roll all night and party every day. Gene, baby, we're still Kiss Army foot soldiers ready to fight for you, despite that ugly scene last year when you implied that NPR's Terry Gross should welcome you and your studded codpiece with open legs ... wait a minute. Hmm. Yuck. On second thought, we withdraw our adoration. Should you disagree, you can meet the man himself when he arrives to autograph copies of his three most recent books starting at noon at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Born in 19th-century Argentina, the tango came along at a time when even dancing with clasped hands could cause a scandal. But in the brothels, gambling houses, and bars of Buenos Aires the erotic pas de deux became a means for ladies of the evening to preview their boudoir moves for the appreciative customers who danced along. The Smuin Ballet salutes the sultry form in "Tango Palace: Tangos, Fados, and Other Curios," the world-premiere show that opens the company's 10th season. In the headliner piece, Smuin's dancers visit a mythical dance hall where men and women rev up for seduction with daring, flirtatious moves set to moody fados, the traditional Portuguese folk ballads. Sharing the program is Suite Gershwin, a compilation of movements from Michael Smuin's full-length ballet Dancin' With Gershwin, and Les Noces, the story of a Russian folk wedding. Catch a matinee today starting at 2 p.m. (the production continues through Nov. 2) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $20-60; call 495-2234 or visit www.smuinballets.com.

Monday, October 13, 2003
Hip hop meets superdork in the music of Phil Crumar. Though it seems all the suburban white kids want to tell their stories over scratchy beats, Crumar (aka Phil McGaughy) might be the most polished of them: He's a witty lyricist ("I be sippin' on San Pellegrino with a shot of vino"), and his smooth flow, expert sampling, and faux giant ego make him more than just a novelty act. Starting out as an elementary school jazz-band drummer in Washington, D.C., he moved to San Francisco and got weird, like plenty of other musicians. It was here that the young artist found the Crumar, a $35 Italian synthesizer that would give him his name and allow him to include ever-funnier noises in his songs, and the rest is ... well, find out tonight. The Latrelles and Baby Cheos open at 8:30 at the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $6; call 647-2888 or visit www.makeoutroom.com.

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