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 March 26 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, 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 April 17 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.

The Typographer's Dream. At the beginning of Encore Theatre Company's production of Adam Bock's play, we are introduced to three characters: a typographer, a geographer, and a stenographer, who proceed, with varying degrees of stiffness and eloquence, to enthuse about their jobs. Reportedly inspired in part by the 2 1/2 years Bock spent working at a graphic and Web design firm, this beautiful and strange comedy riffs on the relationship between people and their careers. Director Anne Kauffman and actors Aimée Guillot, Jamie Jones, and Michael Shipley gleefully demonstrate how the three characters match their chosen jobs, occasionally making them resemble -- through the unselfconscious eagerness with which they talk about their work -- the wacky types who populate the films of Christopher Guest. A whole branch of ham psychology exists around the business of matching "personality types" with appropriate careers. But Bock does more than demonstrate the influence of personality upon career choice; he also shows the reverse: how our career choices influence us. Through April 3 at the Thick House, 1695 18th St. (between Arkansas and De Haro), S.F. Tickets are $15-20; call 821-4849 or visit www.encoretheatrecompany.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Feb. 16.

Also Playing

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

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

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

Blood Relative
Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.

Blue
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter (at Mason), 474-8800.

Cinderella
Young Performers Theater, Bldg. C Fort Mason (Marina & Buchanan), 346-5550.

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

Crimes of the Heart
Actors Theatre San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 296-9179.

Electric Candyland
Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477, www.offmarkettheater.com.

Enemy Combatant
Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.

Evita
Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 512-7770.

Female Transport
Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 777-2800.

For Better or Worse
Berkeley Repertory's Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949.

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

Gorgeous, A Journey of the Body
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

The Just
The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK Jr.), Berkeley, 510-841-6500.

Lilies
Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 777-2800.

Miss Coco Peru Is Undaunted!
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.

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