No doubt the producers of Take Me Out have little room in their houses for family pictures, what with all the awards cluttering their mantels: In 2003 their Broadway hit won two Tonys, a Drama Desk statuette, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and more. Penned by playwright Richard Greenberg (The Violet Hour), the comedy centers on Darren Lemming, popular star of the fictional baseball team the Empires. Talented on the field and beloved by millions, Lemming throws a curveball by calling a press conference to announce that he's gay. In an ideal world his confession would cause little furor; in this one, reactions run the gamut from outward acceptance to clueless acrimony -- the latter from a redneck relief pitcher who complains John Rocker-style to the press about the team's load of "coons," "spics," and "faggots." Greenberg's take on homophobia is nothing new, but his admiration of both baseball and the men who play it (who show off more than their batting skills in numerous fully nude scenes) makes for stirring drama. Previews begin at 8 tonight (and the play runs through Jan. 9) at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $37-75; call 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. -- Joyce Slaton
Somewhere between the whiskey-soaked rasp of Neil Young and the haunting falsetto of Jeff Buckley lies the voice of Joseph Arthur, an Ohio-bred singer/songwriter who's been threatening to take off ever since he first made the scene in 1997.
But how does a guy who has released three albums on Peter Gabriel's label, Real World Records -- one of which was named Entertainment Weekly's best of 2000 -- stay under the radar for so long? Even after his single "Honey and the Moon" landed on the soundtrack to TV's The OC, Arthur remains largely unknown in the mainstream, which seems to prefer saccharine pop to his style of stripped-down folk tapestry.
Live, Arthur delivers tenderly plucked acoustic guitar spiked with harmonica -- but mixes it up with prerecorded loops, creating richly textured soundscapes. Woman and Joan as Police open at 9 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Tickets are $14; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com. -- Maya Kroth
Dinner Theater Tension at the table
For holiday spectators bored by endless renditions of It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, the Rhino offers an exercise in bad behavior rather than charity and grace. The Man Who Came to Dinner is a rollicking sendup of seasonal treacle by the inimitable Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, who penned it in 1939. Featuring P.A. Cooley as Sheridan Whiteside, a weaselly raconteur intent on making his hosts' lives a living hell, it presents a Christmas quandary that's slightly more realistic than a midlife visitation by self-righteous ghosts. It previews tonight at 8 (and runs through Jan. 9) at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $15-28; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org. -- Nirmala Nataraj
You'd expect a band called Fuck to be a juvenile shoutfest bent on offending people. While that would be cool, the confrontationally named group is far more interested in relatively calm, sweet guitar riffs and stylish vocals. (OK, and some dick jokes.) Built Like Alaska and the Panty Lions open at 10 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. -- Hiya Swanhuyser