Playwright/performer Brian Quirk's Mapplethorpe: The Opening is more inflammatory than a full-frontal sex scene on prime-time television. And it's funny, too, with its grittily sophisticated aura of a 1970s art gallery teeming with disaffected patrons (we get earfuls of internal dialogue like, "I'm trying to perfect my unfazed-by-anyone-in-New-York look; is it working?"). Quirk plays every character in this construal of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's first erotic photography show in New York City -- from icons like Patti Smith and Andy Warhol to Mapplethorpe's high school art teacher, and, in a very My Own Private Idaho maneuver, the photographs themselves. Mapplethorpe died in 1989, leaving behind a trail of iniquitous portraits (the most famous being of a bullwhip inserted in his anus) and a penchant for irking moralizing watchdogs, even from his grave. Quirk vogues, quips, and bitches for 80 minutes, easily transforming from Mapplethorpe's mirthful "granny" into baleful fetishists whose accounts would tax even the most permissive theatergoers. If Mapplethorpe's art was about finding beauty in the damnedest places, Quirk's hurricane of a story is apropos.
Mapplethorpe opens Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sept. 11) at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Admission is $20-38; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Once you go black ...
The underrated The Godfather Part III has a famous line wherein Michael Corleone croaks, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." The same can be said in reference to the overrated Hilton sisters. Just when poor Paris complains about how heavy her gigantic diamond engagement ring feels and I start to lose interest, she gets a sharp new haircut and I'm sucked back in. But what about Nicky, the unfortunate ugly duckling sister? Hell, who knows? She's spectacularly boring. But the new satire Nicky Goes Goth asks what if the not-Paris decided to forgo her insipid lifestyle for something more. While taking in the scene at a trendy nightclub, Nicky befriends an arson-happy suburban goth named Shithead, and her life changes for the better. If only the real Nicky would take note.
The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. (and the play continues until October 1) at La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley. Admission is $10-15; call (510) 464-4468 or visit www.impacttheatre.com.
-- Brock Keeling
A skate date
Never really thought about this before: Ice skating probably has that chaste, wholesome (some people say "cheesy") feel to it because we see it on national television most of the time. But what if it were performed to live music, in a more grown-up venue? The "Fire & Ice" event is just such a scenario, featuring Mr. Gay Skating himself, Rudy Galindo, Broadway singing star Ellen Greene, and ... cocktails. Loads of other talented skaters and musicians join them, and there's even a toned-down early show suitable for kids.
Think of it as improv with a much-needed edge: Oui Be Negroes uses Beat poetry to craft socio-political scenes in Café Negro, with newcomers RATS Improv opening the show, whose name is a not-so-subtle dig at the scene stalwarts (BATS Improv, for those of you living in a hole). It starts at 8 p.m. at the Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 863-1076 or visit www.ouibenegroes.com.
-- Michael Leaverton