It's somewhat of a cliché for actors, whether they're stage- or screen-bound, to ask themselves, "Do I have what it takes to direct?" Good question. Directing requires a wide range of knowledge and experience, coupled with an iron will. At "Directors Cut: A Feast of 1-Page Plays," audiences get a chance to find out plenty about the stage version of this seemingly mysterious profession, in a whirlwind the press materials describe as "20 plays done 30 ways" by four directors. Styles range from avant-garde to street theater, which, along with the repetition of several of the pieces, gives viewers an idea of how directors make choices and what effects those choices have, even when the scripts are the same. This quartet has ties to New York's La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as local outfits like the Magic Theatre and Berkeley Rep -- they clearly have what it takes. The curtain goes up at 8 tonight (and the series runs through Nov. 6) at the Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason (at Geary), S.F. Admission is $20-25; call 386-2373 or visit www.abydostheater.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Love's Labor Found
Lost romance always sounds so much better in books. In real life it involves sleepless nights, embarrassing sniveling, and phone calls made while praying that the receiver doesn't have Caller ID. But in Nina Schuyler's transcendent novel The Painting, a young Japanese woman escapes from the pain of her loveless arranged marriage by painting a remembered scene from a past passion on mulberry paper, then disposing of it by wrapping her work around a pot that's en route to France. There the pot is unpacked at a Paris gift shop by the disconsolate and wounded Jorgen, whose life suddenly becomes inextricably entwined with that of the painter, Ayoshi, as well as that of Hayashi, her well-meaning and lonely husband, and Natalia, the woman who shows Jorgen how to echo the painting with a love of his own. Schuyler reads from her book (author Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum also reads from her own Madeleine Is Sleeping) at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
You always kick the one you love
Love is never easy, but it's not supposed to leave you with a broken rib or a bruised cheekbone -- and it's certainly not supposed to kill you. In reality, sometimes it does. Philip Kan Gotanda's appropriately titled new play Fist of Roses investigates what motivates lovers to hate, and what pushes ordinary people to abuse those they care about. Culled from interviews and case studies, Gotanda's play, created in conjunction with the theater troupe Campo Santo, uses some unusual elements -- like live beat-boxing and dance choreographed by local movement artist Erika Chong Shuch -- to explore what it means to be a man in our society, and how manhood seems to be, for some, automatically linked to violence.
Gotanda's play is new, but his voice on the local scene isn't: Campo Santo premiered another of his plays in 2001, floating weeds, and he's been a major writer on Asian-American issues for more than 20 years. His works are nothing if not political, and Fist of Roses reminds us that, while we're fighting a war abroad and watching the death toll rise overseas, war doesn't take place only between two countries: Things can get pretty ugly on the home front, too. The play has a distinct form, weaving stories together through the vehicle of an MC and live music by Tommy Shepherd. But don't expect much levity; the subject is fierce, and the experience promises to be volatile and intense. Fist of Roses opens tonight at 8 (and continues through Nov. 22) at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 16th Street), S.F. Tickets are $9-15; call 626-3311 or visit www.theintersection.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Looking at Country
Picture a wry Marty Robbins, or the special place where Johnny Cash meets Stephin Merritt in grand piano-land, and you'll be thinking of Giant Sand's brilliant ivory-tickler, Howe Gelb. Meanwhile, the frightfully talented husband-and-wife country team the Handsome Family often plays the musical saw and the Autoharp, but manages to make intelligent music anyway. The two groups share the bill at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is $15-34.95; call 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Light and Lovely
The Brits have given us many gifts: bangers and mash, Boddingtons ale, and the talented Holly Golightly. Formerly frontwoman for the girl group Thee Headcoatees, Golightly has gone on to bless our ears with an astonishing 14 solo albums. Raise a pint in her honor at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Sunny Andersen