Our critics weigh in on local theatre

Strange Travel Suggestions. Veteran traveler and best-selling author Jeff Greenwald may not be a trained actor, but he is a born storyteller. In his first solo show, he takes us all over the globe (though predominantly to the East) and tells tales of a freedom-fighter-turned-guru in India, Buddhist monks riding the first escalator in Nepal, a "Penis Saddhu" who pays homage to Shiva by performing feats of great strength with his genitals, the Dalai Lama (whom he interviews about Star Trek), and a bizarre homosexual encounter at Burning Man that climaxes in the ejaculation of horchata. His stories vary nightly, but are invariably entertaining, and while many of them have appeared in print, to hear him tell them live adds a new dimension. Greenwald has not only a gift for language, but also a great sense of rhythm and comic timing. The show might speak more to an audience familiar with Nepalese customs, religions of the East, and the random life experiences that one accumulates via immense jet lag, unusual climate conditions, and an inability to drink the local water, but it's accessible to all audiences and is sure to spark a traveling bug of the worst (or best) kind. Through June 9 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22 sliding scale; call 826-5750 or visit (K.M.) Reviewed May 19.

A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley. Although capped off with a coda of motivational speech, Silvian Centiu's monologue -- about his clamber from Eastern Bloc anguish to upper-level management at Oracle -- doesn"t carry a moralizing tone. Centiu has had humility beaten into him, but he hasn't been beaten, and that's a story worth telling. He's a natural raconteur, and his best material is in the humbling episodes: dodging bullets on the Romanian border; driving a truckload of blood into Transylvania and not getting the joke; finding out the hard way that the common verbs of his native tongue sound like obscenities in English. To learn our language, he sought tireless talkers and found a great triptych of American culture: trade show, car dealership, courtroom. Whether wading into the undertow of communism or capitalism, Centiu stays buoyant via a highly refined black humor. A Transylvanian is perfectly publishable as it stands, but on the page it would lack the music of Centiu's accent and his shrugging, conversational cadence -- a refreshing rebuke to the writerly affect all too common in bare-stage monologues. Centiu really talks to us, even if he does make us feel guilty about our easy lives. Through June 19 at the Actors Theatre, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $12-24; call 820-3929 or visit (J.K.) Reviewed May 19.

Also Playing Are We Almost There?: Morris Bobrow's rollicking, long-running musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of travel, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, $20-$22. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Beach Blanket Babylon: This North Beach perennial features crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance, 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays, $25-$65. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

"Bourgeois": A rather schizophrenic evening of experimental music, dance, and theater featuring choreographer Joe Landini's 4 Stories, a dance piece reflecting on technology's takeover of modern culture, along with Femmisphere: Songs in the Key of Angst, a "drag cabaret" performance by the inimitable Trauma Flintstone, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 30, $10, 885-4006 (information). Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story: Relive Holly's music -- and review his rise and untimely demise -- with this autobiographical musical; Previews, 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 9; 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through July 11; $25-$63. Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Mason), 321-2900.

Clue: The Play: A farce whodunit echoing both the classic board game and cult film adaptation of same; the audience votes on multiple surprise endings at each show, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through June 19, $12.50-$16. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

"Cut the Cord": An evening of two one-act plays: Immaculate is a drama about the binding ties of two sisters as they confront family demons of abuse, alcohol and unexpected pregnancy; Just One, Maggie uses four actresses to present four different facets of one woman's personality, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through June 26, $20. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

Dirty Blonde: Claudia Shear's comedy follows the exploits of Mae West and two of her many lovers, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 26; $10-$25. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

The End: A pre-U.S. tour workshop production of the musical revue about three women who sing about the end of their relationships, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through June 26; $20, 861-8972 (reservations). New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Hairspray: A zaftig girl finds love, acceptance, and her dancing chops in this musical comedy, through July 3, $36.50-$81, see for a schedule of performances. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), 512-7770.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change: Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts' original comic musical examines our embarrassing inner notions on relationships, 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 30; $35-$55. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 877-771-6900.

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