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Our critics weigh in on local theater

The Magnificence of the Disaster.The material doesn't get any more raw or emotionally wrought than the content of Rebecca Fisher's new solo show. In 1995, Fisher lost her mother in a brutal and highly publicized murder that rocked Memphis. Four years later she lost her brother in another devastating and tragic episode. The title is drawn from the premise that Southerners have "an inherently different approach to tragedy because [they] lost the Civil War. There's a magnificence in how bad it got." This is dark and heavy material, but Fisher employs plenty of Southern-styled comedy and physical humor to relate the tender details of her late mother (social drinking at "Margarita Mondays" and jazzercise workouts at the Baptist Healthplex). The show veers sharply back and forth between despair and an almost forced joviality — much like the reality of mourning — that can be an emotionally confusing narrative arc for an audience to connect with. This, most likely, is due to the shocking fact that the murder trial has been ongoing and just concluded three weeks ago. Magnificence offers up an unresolved, yet unnerving and unflinching look into one family's tragedy. Fisher has absolutely no distance from these heartbreaking events and she points out that the plot doesn't wrap up neatly like a Law & Orderepisode. Though this monologue feels understandably unfinished, both in structure and tone, it is a moving and unique experience to witness a performer act out scenarios onstage that she is still working through in present-day life. Extended run through March 25 at the Marsh Theater, 1602 Valencia (between 21st & 22nd), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 800-838-3006 or visit www.themarsh.org. (N.E.) Reviewed Feb. 14.

Tings Dey Happen. Based on his experiences as a Fulbright Scholar studying oil politics in Nigeria (American's fifth-biggest oil supplier), solo performer Dan Hoyle drills deep beneath the surface of media hype and NGO cant to help us understand the forces at work behind the oil-rich country's escalating cycle of corruption and violence. On his journey backward and forward between Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, and the lawless hinterlands of the Niger Delta, Hoyle — with acute attention to physical detail (and an ear for pidgin) — embodies a soft-spoken, 23-year-old rebel sniper whose chief desire is to obtain a university degree; a warlord armed with four cellphones and a family photo album, like Marlon Brando in The Godfather; and a nerdy Japanese member of the Young Diplomats Club in Lagos working on a thesis about the Tanzanian cashew nut, among many others. Like Anna Deavere Smith, one of the most famous practitioners of this style of show, Hoyle takes a journalistic approach. But unlike Smith, whose slavish impersonation of the speech nuances of her interviewees seems more stenography than artistry, Hoyle filters his Nigerian experience through his vivid imagination, creating full-blooded characters that are as theatrical as they are real. Through March 31 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (between 21st and 22nd sts.), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (C.V.) Reviewed Jan. 10.

365 Plays/365 Days
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.
Actors Reading Writers Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.
All the Great Books (Abridged)
Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic (at Locust), Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469.
American $uicide
The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.
BATS: Sunday Players
Fort Mason, Bldg. B, Marina & Buchanan, 474-6776.
Bay One-Acts Festival
Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.
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.
The Birthday Party
Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.
'Bot
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.
The Cider House Rules
Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.
Dead Certain
Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.
Family Jewels
Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079.
Fiction
Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.
GayProv
Off-Market Studio, 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.
Jersey Boys
Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.
Jesus Hopped the A Train
SF Playhouse, 536 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
Killing My Lobster Kabaret
Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission), 647-2888.
Lola Montez
Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-558-1381.
Love, Chaos & Dinner
Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.
Menopause the Musical
Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (Beach & Embarcadero), 433-3939.
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.
Murder Mystery Dinner
The Archbishop's Mansion, 1000 Fulton (at Steiner), 563-7872.
Naught But Pirates
Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.
One-Man Star Wars Trilogy
Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Mason), 321-2900.
A Place to Stand
Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-3311.
Pleasure and Pain
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.
The Rose Tattoo
Actors Theatre San Francisco, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 296-9179.
Rust
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.
To the Lighthouse
Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949.
Uncle Gunjiro's Girlfriend
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200.

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