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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wakefield; or Hello, Sophia. Central Works Theater Ensemble and playwright Brian Thorstenson bring out the best in each other in this elegant 70-minute production about how to reignite a marriage thought lost forever. The play picks up where Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Wakefield" left off, as a middle-aged man suddenly returns to his wife after just as suddenly walking out on her two decades before. As the couple, Julian López-Morillas and Jan Zvaifler deftly express the longing and confusion of their unexpected reunion, mining Thorstenson's deceptively simple text for the heartbreak that lies just beneath the surface of their halting or mundane words. The play sometimes gets stuck in their inability to communicate, a choice that is true to the mood of Hawthorne's original story, but ends up keeping us from fully engaging with these two lost souls. Yet we are pulled back into the play by moments of theatrical fantasy, where both husband and wife imagine what their lives could be in contrast to what they actually are. They're the kind of fantasies we all get stuck in, and the story of this couple learning how to let go of these what-if scenarios beautifully captures the struggle we all face to accept the flawed lives we have and love them all the same. Through March 23 at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley. Tickets are $14-$25; call 510-558-1381 or visit (M.R.) Reviewed March 5.

Wishful Drinking. Carrie Fisher's solo show feels less like a play and more like cocktails over at her house. Within five minutes, Fisher has kicked off her shoes, poured herself a massive glass of Diet Coke, lit a clove cigarette, and asked the audience if they have any questions. While obviously there's a scripted tale to be told about her life in and out of rehab and the tabloids, Fisher has a generous personality and clearly enjoys plenty of audience interaction. On a beautifully designed living room set by Alexander V. Nichols, images and bits of film are projected to accompany her tumultuous life. Fisher was the celebrity spawn of 1950s teen idols Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, and, as many know from her book Postcards from the Edge, she had quite an affinity for drugs ("Some say religion is the opiate of the masses, but for me, I took opiates religiously"). The Star Wars segment will seem all too brief for fans, but is highlighted with George Lucas' declaration that there is no underwear in space. Her marriage to Paul Simon is absorbing (who knew that much of his album Rhythm of the Saints was all about her?), but this play is rooted solidly in her diagnosis as a manic-depressive. Some segments border on self-indulgence, and 30 minutes could easily be trimmed, but it is undeniably appealing watching Fisher expose the beautiful and ugly bits of her life with such a big heart. Through April 12 at Berkeley Rep, 2015 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $16.50-$59; call 510-647-2949 or visit (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed March 12.

25 Questions for a Jewish Mother: Judy Gold spins anecdotes about parenting in this solo comedy show. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 23, $29-$75. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900,

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 featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. $25-$65, Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Big City Improv: Actors take audience suggestions and create comedy from nothing. Fridays, 10 p.m., $15, Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226,

Coronado: A drama about sex, murder, and money by Dennis Lehane, directed by Susi Damilano. Called "an film-noir ride through the lives and passions of Middle Americans," the play is by the author of Mystic River, on which Clint Eastwood's film by the same name was based. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 26, $20-$65. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596,

Four Breaths: Four short erotic works by Samuel Beckett, Anaïs Nin, Ian Walker, and Rick Burkhardt. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through March 29. Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.

The Government Inspector: Nikolai Gogol's play plays out in a backwater Russian village, where government leaders and local cronies are willing to give a visiting official money, women, and whatever else he wants — just as long as he gives them a good report back at the capital. March 20-April 20. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228,

Insignificant Others: An open run of L. Jay Kuo's musical, directed by George Quick, about five friends who move to San Francisco from the Midwest. Daily, Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (Beach & Embarcadero).

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.

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