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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Crucifixion. As the world becomes cluttered with books on network theory, Web sites devoted to uniting us with our next job/apartment/life partner, and films and plays featuring ensemble casts in which apparent strangers jump into bed with one another only to discover they've had sex with that person before, it's hard to imagine that there's anything more to say on the subject of connectivity. Undaunted, Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!) has written a new play all about joining the dots. Crucifixion, which explores the murder of a high-profile television producer by a Jesuit priest through the casual interactions among a bunch of seemingly disparate individuals, features a voluminous cast and took nearly two years to develop. Disappointingly, McNally's statement about the ties that bind can more or less be summarized with the following quote from the play: "Life is all about connections. You don't have to understand them, you just have to open yourself up to the possibility of them." That's it? Tell me something new, Terry. Through Nov. 20 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 Oct. 26.

Finn in the Underworld. It's extremely rare to go to the theater these days and experience genuine fear. Jordan Harrison's precocious new play, Finn in the Underworld, fills the viewer with bone-tingling suspense and nameless dread -- sensations more akin to watching Hitchcock movies than works for the stage. Harrison's drama follows what happens when sisters Gwen and Rhoda, together with Gwen's son Finn, clean out their dead father's old house and unwittingly bring back to life the gruesome secrets from the past that lurk in the basement. The play is complex and plot-driven -- death by asphyxiation might be the most horrifying narrative element -- but it's not the story that gives Finn its high fear factor: The steady compression of time, place, and character; the brain-numbing soundscape of ticking clocks and dripping taps; and the claustrophobic contractions of the walls and ceilings of the set make watching it feel like slow suffocation. Featuring poised performances from all four cast members, Finn produces a garrotelike grip on the audience that might be further enhanced with some editing, particularly in the second half. Through Nov. 6 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $43-59; call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Oct. 19.

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.

Also Playing

Achilles & Patroklos Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.

Actors Reading Writers Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.

Are We Almost There? Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

The Ballad of Pancho & Lucy Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-2787.

Banyan New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth St.), 626-5416.

Bat Boy Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.

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

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

Betty Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 647-2822.

Beyond Therapy Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Big City Improv Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

California Palm Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 931-8385.

Comedy Improv at Your Disposal Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 510-595-5597.

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.

Dark Horse, Indiana New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

False Servant Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

Fury Factory Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.

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

Ghost Sonata Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th St.), 282-9246.

Good Luck With It The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Hamlet Project Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-2787.

Happy End Original Joe's, 144 Taylor (at Eddy), 775-4877.

Improv Revolution Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

In Bed With Fairy Butch for Women, Transfolks, & Their Pals 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission (at 22nd St.), 970-9777.

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