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 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 July 24 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.

Southern Baptist Sissies. Del Shores' tragicomedy mixes what New Conservatory productions tend to do best (camp) with what they tend to stumble over (sentiment). Four teenage choirboys in a Southern Baptist church experiment with their changeable, fickle desires under the inattentive but feverish eye of a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Mark, who snarkily narrates, falls in love with T.J., a straight-up military son who prefers not to think of himself as gay. Andrew is a sweetly suffering closet case; Benny rejects his upbringing to become a drag queen. The show amounts to a survey of the wreckage caused by Baptist fundamentalism, with music: Church ladies and choirboys sing hymns, while Benny channels Dolly Parton and Wynonna Judd. But the liveliest characters are a pair of barflies who seem to live in the club where Benny sings. An old fag hag named Odette Annette Barnette (J.R. Orlando) makes friends with an overweight, over-the-hill queer named Peanut (Richard Ryan). "Oh, no, honey, I'm not a lesbian," Odette tells him chirpily. "I'm a alcoholic." Unfortunately, they have little to do with the main story. The Baptist-community satire is stronger here than any drama of self-discovery: Sissies, overall, preaches to the converted. Through July 11 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $18-28; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed June 23.

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.

As You Like It: The all-female Woman's Will company sets Shakespeare's tale in 1960s London with a cross-dressing cast, Saturday, July 10, through Aug. 15, free; see www.womanswill.org for a schedule of performances, 510-420-0813 (information). Multiple locations.

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.

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 Saturday, July 10, $30-$85, see www.bestofbroadway-sf.com for a schedule of performances. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

Boxcar Bertha: A one-woman play based on the life and times of 1930s rail-riding hobo Bertha Thompson, 8 p.m. Thursday, July 8, through Saturday, July 10, $12-$20. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle: The Shotgun players retell the story of King Solomon and his solution to a problem shared by two mothers in this free outdoor production, 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, beginning Sunday, July 11, through Aug. 29, free. John Hinkel Park, Southampton (between San Diego and Somerset), Berkeley, 510-655-0813.

The Good Body: Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler looks at the whys and wherefores of women changing their bodies for social approval, 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through July 25; $11-$68. Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

Henry IV: Mladen Kiselov directs Dakin Matthews' adaptation of of Shakespeare's Henry IV,Parts One and Two; Previews, 8 p.m., through Friday, July 9; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, beginning Saturday, July 10, 2 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, beginning Saturday, July 10, through Aug. 1; $10-$52. Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Siesta Valley, Shakespeare Festival Way/Gateway Blvd., Hwy. 24, Orinda, 510-548-9666.

I Look Like an Egg But I Identify as a Cookie: Comic Heather Gold bakes chocolate chip cookies and recounts funny memories with her audiences while asking them to share recipes and other secrets, 8 p.m. Sundays, through July 18, $20-$30, 866-468-3399 (information). Hotel Adagio, 550 Geary (at Taylor).

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