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Encore

Our critics weigh in on local theater

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 Jan. 29 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, 2004.

Rush Limbaugh in Night School. Charlie Varon has revived and revamped his hilarious 1994 solo tour de force, a satire that may owe more than a little to Tom Stoppard's Travesties (see below), about Rush Limbaugh and a cast of mostly still-relevant national figures from the left and right. When a conservative Latino radio host threatens Limbaugh's dominance in a Florida market, the potbellied pundit puts on a beard and enrolls in Spanish night classes (at the New School), where he falls in love with a fugitive ex-member of the Weather Underground. For obscure reasons Limbaugh also tries to play Othello in blackface, in a star-studded production featuring Garrison Keillor, directed by Spalding Gray. Things go predictably to hell. Varon's in full command of his characters; the voices are sharp, if not perfect; and his timing is hard to beat. But he and Limbaugh are both visibly older. Varon's point in 1994 was that Limbaugh had upended the whole idea of satire -- he'd turned a traditional weapon of the underprivileged into a tool of power, and the last 10 years have only shown how potent that strategy can be. Limbaugh was pretty much on his own in 1994; lately his talk-radio spawn have probably helped a) elect a new governor in California, and b) re-elect a president. Depressing. Through Feb. 20 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Dec. 15, 2004.

Travesties. The happiest game Tom Stoppard has played onstage may be Travesties, his 1974 blender-spin of 20th-century revolutionaries who all lived in Zurich in 1917. James Joyce, writing Ulysses; Tristan Tzara, developing dada; and Vladimir Lenin, receiving news of a distant revolution, are dimly remembered by an obscure British consular official named Henry Carr, who in real life really did play Algernon in a Zurich production of The Importance of Being Earnest, business-managed by Joyce. John Mercer plays Carr with the right amount of shambling pompousness in this lively revival by the Shotgun Players. Designer Alf Pollard has transformed Shotgun's cavernous new home at the Ashby Stage into a gleeful playpen, and Sabrina Klein's tightly directed production -- with its tromp through history and art, its pungent remarks about war -- seems like a perfect inauguration. The most surprising part of the play is how well it moves, considering its thick layers of allusion and lack of plot. The better you know your Wilde and Joyce -- and dadaism, and Marxist-Leninism -- the more layers of jokes you can unpeel, but you don't need to know any of it to enjoy the show. Through Jan. 16 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Dec. 15, 2004.

Also Playing

Are We Almost There?
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

BATS: Sunday Players
Fort Mason, Bldg. B, Marina & Buchanan, 474-6776.

Beach Blanket Babylon
Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Beyond Therapy
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Big City Improv
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Caroline, or Change
Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

Comedy Improv at Your Disposal
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

The Gamester
Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

GayProv
Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477, www.cafearts.com.

Italian.Queer.Dangerous
Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission (at 11th St.), 554-0402.

Jury of Her Peers and The Necklace
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822.

Love, Chaos & Dinner
Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

Mambo Italiano
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Monday Night Improv Jam
Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St. (at Folsom), 364-1411.

Princess Bride: The Play
Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

SF Sketchfest
Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

"Throckmorton Stories"
142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton (at Madrona), Mill Valley, 383-9600.

What a Crime! García Lorca
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
, 2868 Mission (at 25th St.), 821-1155.

 
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