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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Out Cry. Even the best Tennessee Williams plays present a problem for actors: So much of his dialogue is so overripe that unwitting performers can be sucked into a camp vortex that transforms mannered tragedy into farce. And that's in his good shows. His bad ones — such as the 1973 stinker Out Cry: The Two-Character Play — are almost sure to leave both actors and audiences in a state of severe Southern discomfort. Out Cry concerns Felice (Oleg Liptsin) and Clare (Felecia Faulkner), sibling actors who find themselves abandoned by their theatrical troupe; they proceed to act out a two-person play that's supposed to sound improvised. To Williams' credit, the show really does feel as if it's being made up as it goes along. The problem is that Out Cry offers almost zero dramatic interest, unless you think of it as an unfortunate example of the playwright's late flirtation with absurdist drama. Liptsin directs himself in this International Theater Ensemble production — a production that is, almost miraculously, even worse than its source material — and he and Faulkner attempt a kind of overlapping banter that is probably intended to create a kaleidoscopic effect. But the result is closer to complete incoherence: much of the dialogue is indecipherable, and that which can be deciphered was insufferable to begin with. Through June 1 at the Next Stage Theatre, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F. Tickets are $15-$25; call 333-6389 or visit www.internationaltheaterensemble.com. (C.J.) Reviewed May 7.

Best of PlayGround 12: A Festival of New Writers & New Plays: Through May 25. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

Breast of Sherry Glaser: The founder of Breasts Not Bombs sets out to save the world. Through June 14. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Bug: A cocktail waitress and an AWOL Gulf War veteran hide out together. Through June 8. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

Buried Child: Sam Shepard's drama about a Midwestern family. May 22-June 12. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.

Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again: A solo show by Wes "Scoop" Nisker. Through May 24. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Curse of the Starving Class: A dark satire by Sam Shepard. Through May 25. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

Don Pasquale: A Pocket Opera production of Gaetano Donizetti's work. Sat., May 24, 1 p.m.; Sat., May 31, 1 p.m.; Sun., June 1, 1 p.m. Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave. (near Clement), 863-3330.

It's Murder Mary: Murder mystery set in a Russian River resort. Through June 28. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Keep Tightly Closed in a Cool Dry Place: A drama set in a jail cell, written by Megan Terry. May 22-June 1. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410.

Magic Powers and Wrecked Flowers: Six original plays written by fifth graders from Starr King Elementary. Fri., May 23, 6:30 p.m., free-$10. de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at JFK), 863-3330.

Octopus: Four men, one night. A drama by Steve Yockey. Through June 8. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822.

The Odd Couple: Together again. Through June 7. The Custom Stage, 965 Mission St. (at Sixth St.), 838-3006.

Peddling Rainbows: Celebrating the songs and poetry of E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. Through May 25. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

Point Break LIVE!: Stage adaptation of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze blockbuster. Through June 21. $25. Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at 25th St.), 285-9366.

W. Kamau Bell Curve: The comedian's solo show. Through June 12. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.

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