Encore

Our critics weigh in on local theatre

Not a Genuine Black Man. It's not easy being green, but try being a black kid in San Leandro in the early '70s. When Brian Copeland got there -- just a few months after the Summer of Love, he points out -- it was one of the most viciously racist suburbs in America. Now it's officially the most diverse. "Take that, San Francisco," Copeland chides. He's earned that attitude, not just for going through his hell of growing up, but also for extracting from it such affirmative, hilarious stuff. Copeland's rightfully popular one-man show, recently extended for another few weeks, is wrought from pain and rage, but never really succumbs to bitterness. "Is that black?" he asks, and proves that it is. Some of his best stereotype-busting material doesn"t feel especially new, but it does feel good. Besides, it's the stereotypes that have passed their expiration dates: Copeland's title comes from an accusation recently flung at him by a cranky listener who called in to his KGO radio program. This show is his response. With help from declarative lighting and David Ford's direction, Copeland creates an affecting hybrid of the dramatic monologue and the rollicking stand-up act. Through June 26 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 2.

Sacrament! Yes, Dave Eggers has written a play, too. Get over it. Even better: See it, and come out saying, "Oh yeah, I like Eggers." In collaboration with Campo Santo and director Kent Nicholson, the writer seems reinvigorated by the immediacy of theater. The tone is familiar: equal parts goofiness and gravitas, with results greater than the sum of their parts. The aesthetic is familiar as well: a handsome production, clean, controlled, and elegant in a pared-down way. And, of course, the material is familiar (from Eggers' novel You Shall Know Our Velocity!): Two young men, bearing a financial windfall and a friend's death, travel the world on impulse, grieving and giving away money. Should be easy enough. But, as Will (Sean San José) observes, "It's always so fucking complicated!" Identity, both civic and personal, is a creative act: It demands the effort of self-reflection, of converting memory into inspiration, yet the actors here pull it off. Danny Wolohan, as Hand, makes great, simple choices and is impossible not to like. He and San José have fine support from Tina Marie Murray and Michael Torres. If the cast's headlong charges into the text sometimes seem memorized beyond the prospect of discovery (and read like a phobia of stillness), it might be considered a thematic preoccupation. To discover mystery is an artist's privilege and his task, and Eggers won"t let that opportunity be squandered. The show beseeches you to stay open above all; it'll leave you feeling at once wrung-out and ravenous. Through June 28 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (between 15th and 16th streets), S.F. Tickets are $9-15; call 626-3311 or visit www.theintersection.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 9.

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 www.atransylvanian.com. (Jonathan Kiefer) 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.

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Deaf West Theatre's production is an unusual combination of spoken English and American Sign Language that also incorporates dance and various storytelling traditions in an effort to create a show appropriate for both deaf and hearing audience members, through July 10, $30-$85, see www.bestofbroadway-sf.com for a schedule of performances. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

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. Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19, $12.50-$16. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

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