Our critics weigh in on local theater

The Trip to Bountiful. It's been 30 years since veteran Method actorÐturnedÐacclaimed acting coach Jean Shelton has performed on stage. So Horton Foote's 1953 drama, telling the story of an elderly woman's homecoming, in many ways heralds a homecoming for the actor. Shelton demonstrates a prodigious range as Carrie Watts, a determined old lady who flees the confines of a rundown Houston apartment for Bountiful, the tiny rural town in which she grew up. Perched on a dilapidated couch in her nightgown in the opening scene, she makes for a seemingly tranquil insomniac. But there's pain behind the character's banter with her overprotective son, Ludie (Christian Phillips), about not being able to sleep because of the full moon. Shelton's performance is also very physical: Whether collapsing on the floor or skipping girlishly offstage, Shelton reveals a vivacity that belies her age, 78. Despite the actor's connection with her role, and sensitive performances from the supporting cast, Foote's text feels as musty as a geriatric's undergarments. Although the themes of loss and familial tension are as prescient as ever, the writing features little resonant language and few memorable characters to transcend its era — which has the unfortunate effect of turning Shelton's comeback into a throwback. Through Sept. 9 at Actors Theatre, 855 Bush (between Mason and Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $20-30; call 345-1288 or visit www.actorstheatresf.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Aug. 9.

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 that people 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 Sept. 3 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK), Berkeley. Tickets are $20-30; call (510) 841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Feb. 16, 2005.

Also Playing

Theater & Opera The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Mason), 321-2900.

"Adult Night" Putnam County Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Mason), 321-2900.

Alice in Wonderland Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 50 Acacia (at Grand), San Rafael, 499-1108.

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

Baum for Peace The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

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

Beyond Therapy Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.

Big City Improv Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.

A Chorus Line Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

The Farmington Armada Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St. (at Folsom), 289-2000.

Faulty Intelligence Marsh Berkeley, 2118 Allston (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 826-5750.

Franc D'Ambrosio's Broadway Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic (at Locust), Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469.

From Ballads to Blues:The Songs of Harold Arlen New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

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

GodFellas Golden Gate Park, Peacock Meadow, JFK Drive (between McLaren Lodge & Conservatory of Flowers).

House of Lucky La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.

How We First Met The Purple Onion, 140 Columbus (at Pacific), 217-8400.

Hunter Gatherers The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

King Lear Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 50 Acacia (at Grand), San Rafael, 499-1108.

Kiss of the Spider Woman New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Laura Dennis Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

Legendary and Fabulous Passion Play Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (between Taylor & Mason), 673-3847.

Light in the Piazza Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 512-7770.

Love, Janis Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900.

Love, Sex, Death and Art New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

The Mary Magdalene Story Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St. (at Folsom), 289-2000.

Menopause the Musical Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (Beach & Embarcadero), 433-3939.

Merola Grand Finale War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness (at Grove), 864-3330.

Miss-Matches.com Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.

Monday Night Improv Jam Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 368-9909.

Monday Night Make Em Ups San Francisco Comedy College, 414 Mason, #705 (at Geary), 921-2051.

Monday Night Marsh The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Ragnarok: The Doom of the Gods John Hinkel Park, Southampton (between San Diego and Somerset), Berkeley, 510-655-0813.

Release the Kraken New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth St.), 626-5416.

See That My Grave Is Kept Clean Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 285-8282.

Shopping! The Musical Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.

Super Vision Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third St.), 978-2787.

Talk Is Cheap ... Dreams Are Priceless Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.

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