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Our critics weigh in on local theater

The Crowd You're in With. Rebecca Gilman's new play begins in a festive spirit as a couple in their early 30s host a July 4 party in the backyard of their rented Chicago apartment. Like a buffalo wing that has been left on the barbecue for too long, the holiday atmosphere soon becomes carcinogenic. The main catalyst for discomfort is reproduction. Jasper and Melinda want to get pregnant but have so far had no luck. Their friends Windsong and Dan, seven months on the way to having their first child, are feeling smug. Landlords Tom and Karen, meanwhile, decided long ago not to become parents and have never looked back. The characters hash out the "to procreate or not to procreate" debate in Gilman's flimsy 80-minute drama to its bitter end until Jasper, in particular, is left doubting everything he thought he held most dear. Director Amy Glazer's fluid staging, Gilman's Seinfeldian knack for making fun of the tiny details of quotidian life, and the cast's casual approach make us believe we're watching reality onstage. Unfortunately, the sense of shared experience dissolves into cliché. From the music-infatuated man-child in Converse sneakers (whom Nick Hornby captured so vividly more than a decade ago in High Fidelity) to the pushy, thirtysomething female with a fast-ticking body clock, we've seen these types before. Through Dec. 22 at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center (Marina and Buchanan), Building D, S.F. Tickets are $20-$45; call 441-8822 or visit (C.V.) Reviewed Nov. 28.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge. Reviewed this week.

Also Playing

BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one. Sundays, 8 p.m., $8, Fort Mason, Bldg. B (Marina & Buchanan), 474-6776.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial. $25-$65. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Big City Improv: Fridays, 10 p.m., $15, Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226,

A Christmas Carol: ACT's annual celebration of Dickens's timeless holiday tale. Through Dec. 23. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228,

Christmas Crap-Array: Adult cabaret of clever and irreverent holiday offerings. Dec. 20-22. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847,

Completely Hollywood (abridged): Through Jan. 6, 2008, 8 p.m., $45-$60. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900,

Ear Candy: Radio in the Flesh: Through Dec. 22, 8 p.m., $15. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987,

The Hard Nut: Mark Morris' reimagining of The Nutcracker, set in the 1970s with dancing Barbie dolls, go-go boots, G.I. Joe soldiers, and leaping snowflakes. Through Dec. 23. UC Berkeley, Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, Berkeley, 510-642-9988.

Jackie Beat: Give 'Til It Hurts: Annual holiday show by drag superstar Jackie Beat. Dec. 20-22, 8 p.m., $30-$32.50. Empire Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter (at Hyde), 885-2800,

Jersey Boys: The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and how they went from a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks to one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. Through Dec. 30, $30-$90. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (between Taylor and Mason), 551-2000.

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy: Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant with Shelley Berman, Scott Blakeman, Esther Paik Goodhart, and Lisa Geduldig. Dec. 20-25. New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific (at Grant), 522-3737.

Love, Chaos & Dinner: A blend of European cabaret, circus arts, and original music with a five-course gourmet dinner. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m., $99-$125, Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

Magic Holiday: A kids' show featuring two magicians and a juggler by David Hirata and friends. Through Dec. 30. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750,

Monday Night Improv Jam: Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, $5, Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477,

Monday Night Marsh: Each week a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage. Mondays, $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750,

Murder Mystery Dinner: A dinner that begins with detectives gathering to split $5 million in royalties from their latest book. Includes fruit and cheese reception and three-course dinner. Beverages available for purchase. Call for specific date. Saturdays, 6 p.m., $95, Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter (at Octavia), 441-2828.

Oy Vey in a Manger: Including such wholesome favorites as "God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians," "A Lay in a Manger," and "Soylent Night," as well as a heartwarming first-person account of the birth of Jesus. Sat., Dec. 22. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), 392-4400.

The SantaLand Diaries and Season's Greetings: Dec. 19-30, 8 p.m., $25, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469,

Shaker Chair: Shotgun Players' drama about environmental activism, written by Adam Bock. Through Jan. 13, 2008. The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK Jr.), Berkeley, 510-841-6500.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches. Daily, $23-$29. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226,

Siddhartha, The Bright Path: The story of Prince Siddhartha's journey to become the Buddha, told in parallel with that of a modern-day San Francisco girl. Through Jan. 6, 2008. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750,

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