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Our critics weigh in on local theater

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 April 19 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 21st St.), S.F. Tickets are $15-$22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Jan. 10, 2007.

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 until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 8 p.m., $8, www.improv.org. Fort Mason, Bldg. B (Marina and Buchanan), 474-6776.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Fridays, Saturdays, 7 & 10 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 4 p.m., $25-$65, www.beachblanketbabylon.com. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

The Better Half: The U.S. premiere of a lost Noel Coward play. Through May 3, 8 p.m., $20-$69. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 248-1900, www.hypnodrome.com.

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

Butterfly Effect: An All-Star Gala Benefiting the Jeffrey Hartgraves Cancer Fund: Starring Bay Area talents Veronica Klaus, Matthew Martin, Connie Champagne, Leigh Crow, Trauma Flintstone, and others. Sun., April 20, 7:30 p.m. Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079, www.therhino.org.

Defending the Caveman: The longest-running solo play in Broadway history explores the battle of the sexes. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 27. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com.

Disney's High School Musical: The stage version of the popular film. Through April 27. Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 512-7770.

DIVAfest: Plays and performances by women artists. Continues through April 26. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Last Call and The American Bar: Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 26. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), www.stagewerx.org.

The Emperor's New Clothes: Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences presents Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's musical. Through April 27. Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College (at Derby), Berkeley, 510-845-8542, www.juliamorgan.org.

hotshot: Terrence Beswick's drama about men and their obsessions: sex, love, and crystal meth. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 26, $10-$15, www.guerrillarep.org. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410, www.voicefactorysf.org.

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, www.isomusical.com. Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero).

Medea: Euripides' drama, directed by Phyllis Holliday and produced by RubberMatchSeriez. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through April 20. St. Boniface Church Theater, 133 Golden Gate (at Leavenworth).

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, www.themarsh.org.

Murder Mystery Dinner: A murder mystery 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. One Saturday a month. Call for specific date. Saturdays, 6 p.m., $95, www.incentivestointrigue.com. Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter (at Octavia), 441-2828.

Point Break LIVE!: Stage adaptation of the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze blockbuster. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through May 1. Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at 25th St.), 285-9366, www.xenodrome.com.

Riches: Lee Blessing's drama about a marriage that goes wrong. Through April 27. Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.

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

Teatro ZinZanni: A bewitching evening of European cabaret, cirque arts, theatrical spectacle, and original live music, all blended with a five-course gourmet dinner, set in the nightclub of your dreams, now in its eighth season in San Francisco. Current show is À La Folie, starring Liliane Montevecchi as Madame ZinZanni. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m., $116-$140, 438-2668, www.zinzanni.org. Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery).

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story: The story of the notorious "thrill killers." Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 4. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

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