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 Nov. 27 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 2.

Train Stories. Wayne Harris' terrific new one-man show at the Marsh deals with three characters on and around a Pullman car in the 1940s, who each tell fragments of a story about a lean and beautiful young woman named Jessie Blue Ribbons. John Henry, a grave and slightly ill-tempered porter, Tyrone Little, a jolly foul-mouthed pimp, and the Elder, an 85-year-old retired rail worker, "bo'n and raised in slav'ry," as he says, all circle their topic like slow-hunting hawks, until you realize -- about three-quarters of the way in -- that you're listening to a lurid, Faulkneresque tragedy in three voices. Sometimes the story moves too slowly, and you wish for less talk and a little more action, but the characters are engaging. "You want a story, it's gonna be nothing' but ol' train stories and lies," says John Henry to his silent listener (either a younger man on the Pullman staff or the audience). He goes on about the legendary John Henry, the rail worker who won a race against a steam drill; Tyrone Little talks like a half-drunk, New Orleans-sophisticated lout at a poker game; and the Elder is a disarming old man with an intense and nostalgic blues singer's voice. They build an elusive, fractured impression of Jessie Blue Ribbons and the young man she falls in love with, and their triple frame for the story -- the voice of conscience and responsibility, the voice of desire, the voice of history -- makes her tragedy not just racial, but human. Through Nov. 27 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (between 21st and 22nd streets), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Nov. 3.

"Welcome to the Hypnodrome." For five years the Thrillpeddlers troupe has mounted old scripts from Paris' notorious Théâtre du Grand Guignol; director Russell Blackwood (with his former partner, Daniel Zilber) put on an annual revue called Shocktoberfest! featuring short plays about sadists and lunatics. Now the troupe has its own théâtre in a gloomy converted warehouse South of Market. The Hypnodrome is part theater, part Halloween fright-maze, and "Welcome to the Hypnodrome" is a production of three short Guignolplays intended to show off the space. Unfortunately, the plays are lame. Except for Jill Tracy and Ginette Baljour, and in one case Eric O'Brien, the actors seem stiff and bored, and nobody manages to cast a Gothic spell. Unless a director works this material into something camp-outrageous or funny, Guignolisn't worth reviving. Through Nov. 20 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Tickets are $18-20, or $45-50 for two in a "Shock Box"; call 248-1900 or visit (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Oct. 27.

Also Playing

Addicted: Mark Lundholm discusses his bad habits, from drugs to alcohol to the Internet, not to mention shopping, chocolate, and golf. See Web site for a schedule of performances. Through Nov. 28, $20-40, 771-6900. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 877-771-6900,

Awe About Eve: The gay-themed satire of the popular Bette Davis movie All About Evereturns for another run (after a sold-out summer stint) with the same cast. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 14, $15-35. Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079,

Cicada: Sarah McKereghan penned Ripe Theatre's dark comedy about environmental activism and personal growth. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, $15-20. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (between Taylor & Mason), 673-3847.

Extremities: A woman who manages to turn the tables on her would-be rapist is suspected of committing a crime herself by her roommates. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 19, $25-35. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

Freefall: Performer Nina Wise uses her supple body and energetic delivery to craft an evening of improvised performance. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, $10-15, Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St. (at Folsom), 289-2000.

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