By Joseph Geha
By Jonathan Kiefer
By Katie Tandy
By Mollie McWilliams
By Jennifer Baires
By Jonathan Curiel
By Sherilyn Connelly
Dangerous. From British playwright Christopher Hampton's stage adaptation to the 1988 movie starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' famous epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) has been adapted many times. Playwright Tom Smith's version transports the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, two rival aristocrats who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others for kicks, to modern-day gay San Francisco. Marcus (Javier Galitó-Cava) and Alexander (Donald G. Emmerich) play the Merteuil and Valmont roles, respectively, with bitchy panache. Strutting about in form-fitting designer outfits (a costume change marks their almost every entrance), the two are evenly matched when it comes to promiscuity, deviousness, and good fashion sense. Coquettish performances from all cast members under Clay David's agile direction make the most of the manipulative sexual power games between Marcus, Alexander, and their various exploits, such as the young priest Trevor (Mike Fallon) and the wealthy and avuncular Rosemonde (Richard Ryan). Yet Smith's overwrought, exposition-riddled plot and cheesy dialogue often make Dangerous feel more like a daytime soap than a play. Through Sept. 25 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $20-30; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Sept. 7.
Doing Good. The San Francisco Mime Troupe's Doing Good takes its inspiration from John Perkins' controversial memoir Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The book describes Perkins' years helping the U.S. government and multinational corporations coerce foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy. The troupe's riff on Perkins' real-life John le Carré-style thriller follows the lives of a young, white, middle-class American couple, James and Molly, and their complicity in the homeland's less-than-benign interests in nations as widespread as Ecuador, Iran, Indonesia, and Panama. To avoid military service in Vietnam in 1968, James marries Molly and the pair move to the remote village of Pobre, Ecuador, on Peace Corps business. Very soon, the couple's innocuous attempts at "doing good" through building schoolhouses and educating local women about childbirth are overtaken by the arrival of a major U.S. corporation, whose aim it is to bring Ecuador "out of the Dark Ages" by building infrastructure with loans calculated to cripple the local economy. Despite some snappy one-liners and the bombastic live musical accompaniment, there's unfortunately little of aesthetic merit in Doing Good to mitigate the terrifying obviousness of its bludgeoning message. Through Oct. 2 at various locations throughout Northern California. Tickets are free; call 285-1717 or visit www.sfmt.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed July 13.
The Overcoat. Gogol's short story "The Overcoat" -- in which an office clerk agonizingly scrimps together enough money to buy a new cloak, only to have it stolen from him the very next night -- is a dark social comedy about an ordinary man's battle to survive in a pitiless landscape full of unintelligible systems and hierarchies. Wendy Gorling and Morris Panych's adaptation of Gogol's story for the stage seems less concerned with the struggles of the Regular Joe than it is a perturbing and brilliant depiction of an introspective artist who, in a moment of madness, chooses to flaunt his true colors to the world. Set entirely to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, the story unfolds wordlessly through the gestures and movements of the large ensemble cast, the contrasts of light and shadow, and the manic expressiveness of the Russian composer's bewitching melodies and harmonies. Just as Shostakovich's music veers between tonal and atonal realms, so the protagonist in The Overcoat, delicately personified by the gangly and sprightly haired Peter Anderson, inhabits a world where surface realities give way to nightmarish, internal impulses. Through Oct. 2 at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Tickets are $25-80; call 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Sept. 7.
The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean. Sandy Hackett's swingin' tribute to the Rat Pack takes us back to a time when men wore tuxedos in the desert, women could be one of two things (a lady or a tramp), and Celine Dion was just a golden apple in Las Vegas' hungry eye. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin are brought back to life by God -- and the talents of a quartet of impersonators -- for one more night of highballing at the Sands Hotel. The concert-style production, featuring a live 12-piece band, perfectly captures the spirit of a long-lost era -- from Johnny Edwards' glossy Dean Martin pompadour to what would now be considered terribly un-PC gaffs about black Jews. These particular tribute artists aren't necessarily dead ringers for Frank and company, but if you close your eyes and listen to Brian Duprey's silk-voiced renditions of "My Way" and "Come Fly With Me," you almost feel like you've been transported, martini in hand, to another time and place. In an open-ended run at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $35-60; call 771-6900 or visit www.poststreettheatre.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Aug. 24.
Annie Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), 512-7770.
Are We Almost There? Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.
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