If tired ol' retro musicals about a couple of lovesick cowboys (Oklahoma) or an Argentine dictator's wife (Evita) don't have you rushing for the nearest theater, then a sampling of the rawest work of local stage folk at the fourth annual Bay One-Acts Festival might be just the jolt you need. Presented by the Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company -- supporters of provocative homegrown playwrights -- this year's five-week outing showcases some of the freshest productions in the Bay Area today.
Of the 120 scripts submitted, 14 were chosen for inclusion, with selections exploring a wide range of scintillating scenarios. For example, returning playwright Scott McMorrow's Leftovers examines the taboo subject of cannibalism, while first-timers Lauren D. Yee (Escaping Chinatown, about intercultural romance in the '60s) and JC Samuels (How High the Moon?, a charged tale of a bus stop confrontation between a teenage Midwesterner and a Rwandan refugee) prove that "local" need not mean "provincial." In fact, these three sophisticated one-acts are appropriate curtain-raisers for the festival's Euro-cool "BOA Italia" series (during week five), which also includes a trio of new plays from Italy's UAI Festival: prize finalist Marco Badi's The Job Interview, Stable Theatre of Genoa fixtures Marco Giorcelli and Aldo Ottobrino's Survivors, and Milan playwright Alberto Rigettini's The Sentimental Boxer, each presented in translation by local actors and BOA directors.
The fest opens Thursday, Feb. 17, with one multiplay program presented each week through March 20 at the Eureka Theater, 215 Jackson (at Front), S.F. Admission is $17-20; call 776-7427 or visit www.threewisemonkeys.org.
-- Josh Rotter
Al Larsen wears his heart on his sleeve, as far as music goes. He loves simple music, prefers it by a mile to glammy, overproduced stuff. He loves bands with passion and heart as opposed to slick groups yearning for the big time. Is it any surprise that this is also the kind of music he makes? As part of Some Velvet Sidewalk, Larsen made years' worth of lo-fi treasures on K Records out of Olympia, Wash. His new CD, The Hardline According to Danny & the Dinosaur, promises more of his stripped-down, honest style. He performs with the Moore Bros. and Whysp at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Hip jazz at the Herbst
He's signed to a classic jazz label (Blue Note Records), receives traditional accolades (Grammy nominations), and plays a San Francisco venue associated with "grown-up" music events. But Stefon Harris and his band, Blackout, aren't the type of cats who recycle dusty, noodly jazz licks. Barely over 30, Harris (who plays vibraphone and marimba) professes to be just as influenced by younger sounds like hip hop, funk, and R&B as by the jazz icons of his label's catalog. Last year's album, Evolution, brought an eclectic track list, split between original songs and covers of artists ranging from Sting and Bobby Hutcherson to George Gershwin and South African pianist Hotep Idris Galeta. Expect jazz freed of its stereotypical constraints as the vibes get thick at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $25-40; call 392-4400 or visit www.sfwmpac.org.
-- Tamara Palmer
A Feast From the East
Belly dance galore
Lusty lads who catch sight of gracefully gyrating belly dancers often assume that the form was invented to tantalize the hairy gender, but throughout most of history the ancient style was actually performed for women by women. Some people even believe that an important function of the dance's movements was to limber up the pelvis for childbirth. Whatever the form's origins, it's hard to ignore the spectacle of dancers shimmying and twirling in diaphanous veils and jingling coin belts. Get a gander at local troupes at "Beneath the Veil 2," a fund-raiser for the Oakland Metro theater that features turns from Lotus Tribal Belly Dance, Ultra Gypsy, and others undulating to live and DJ-spun music at 8 p.m. at the Metro, 201 Broadway (at Second Street), Oakland. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 409-4966 or visit www.oaklandmetro.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Give Me Fever
From the land of the weird -- L.A.'s Silver Lake District -- here's a new one on us: Dengue Fever. Led by a Cambodian pop singer and anchored by a group of crack players obsessed with swirly 1960s pop music, this band is everything you'd want in a multicultural gang bent on the destruction of your morose attitude. Vocalist Chhom Nimol performs in Khmer, so it's unlikely you'll understand her words, but the Village Voicesays "all the psychedelia here comes from her voice," so don't worry about it. Dengue Fever opens for Jonathan Richman at 8 p.m. at the Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell (at Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $10; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser