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Our critics weigh in on local theater

7 Sins. Halfway through James Judd's entertaining 75-minute solo show, it dawns on you: Who the hell is this guy and why am I laughing so hard? While autobiographical one-person shows are nothing new, it's one thing to keep an audience's attention when you're someone famous like Carrie Fisher (whose run at the Berkeley Rep just ended), and quite another when you're a nobody. Judd, the nobody in question here, gets the audience to root for him as he recounts his life's not-so-serious struggles, from his ill-fated attempt in the fifth grade to be honored for giving the best book report (he unwisely chooses My Search for Patty Hearst) to his stint as a stand-up comedian working in sleazy Las Vegas hotels. Along the way, he always manages to say something during his misadventures that, in retrospect, he knows he probably shouldn't have. When, for instance, a man sitting next to him on the ski lift boasts that his woman is waiting for him at the hotel, Judd, who is gay, retorts that his boyfriend is at home doing his taxes. "I'm going to get a blow job and a refund," he gloats. 7 Sins began years ago as a group show; Judd later adapted it for himself and kept the title, which is somewhat misleading. The deadly sins play, at most, a marginal role in his personal stories. The second half of the show wanders some and could be tightened, but this is a minor gripe. Through June 21 at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 931-1094 or visit www.theatrebayarea.org. (Will Harper) Reviewed April 16.

Bug. In one of the most startling scenes of Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Tracy Letts' skin-crawling 1996 melodrama about the human Petri dish otherwise known to us all as planet Earth, a troubled young man who claims to have escaped from an Army hospital squats over a microscope, scrutinizing a sample of his blood in a squalid Oklahoma motel room. At one level, the dramatist's outlandish story about a man who believes ruthless military doctors have planted tiny insects in his body as part of some evil government plot and manages to coerce an impressionable woman into believing it, too, makes us feel like the crew of the Enterprise stumbling upon some alien life form. We observe the characters' trailer-trash antics and outlandish conspiracy theories from a distance, as if the play were unfolding under a magnifying glass. But at another level, the passionate yet pathological relationship between the forlorn Agnes (a quietly defiant Susi Damilano) and her aphid-obsessed beau, Peter (played with Jack Nicholsonlike unpredictability by Gabriel Marin), feels anything but remote. Through June 14 at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $38; call 677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed May 28.

Figaro. People are so seduced by Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro that they tend to overlook the opera's anarchic roots. Historians today widely consider the 18th-century French dramatist Beaumarchais' stage play of the same title to have performed a major role in instigating the French Revolution. It is the revolutionary zeal at the heart of Beaumarchais and Mozart's works that audacious Minneapolis-based theater company Theatre de la Jeune Lune aims to restore and explore in its adaptation of the story. Director Dominique Serrand's version takes place nearly 20 years after the events depicted in Marriage, as the decrepit, philandering Count Almaviva (Serrand) thinks wistfully back to the good old days of sexual intrigue and power in the company of his long-suffering servant Figaro (Steven Epp). The music-infused production examines what it's like to live among the embers of a once-blazing revolutionary pyre through a mixture of Mozartian melody, Beaumarchaisian bombast, and Jeune Lunian lunacy. The physically adventurous and linguistically ingenious double-act of Serrand and Epp reveals thoughtful parallels between the staleness of post-revolutionary France and the widespread feeling of sluggish impotence that has become a hallmark of our own times. Through June 8 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $16.50-$69; call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.(C.V.) Reviewed May 7.

ShortLived. PianoFight productions encourages audience members to brown-bag their own booze; the crew even throws a couple of Budweisers and miniature whiskey bottles into the crowd right before the lights go down. But you don't have to be drunk, or even buzzed, to have a rip-roaring good time. ShortLived is a three-month competition of original short plays where the audience votes which ones make it to the next round. The night I attended, five of the eight plays (each under 10 minutes) were very funny and the other three quite gripping. Most were sustained short bursts of bizarre hilarity, such as a wedding involving ninja costumes and antidepressants, and a man trying unsuccessfully to use a coupon at a supermarket. One, called The Stand In, involved a woman who had actually answered a Craigslist ad to come in unrehearsed and act opposite a sock puppet. Artistic directors Rob Ready and Dan Williams (both stars in their own right) lead an acting company that is irreverent, skilled, and clearly loves to have a good time. Through June 28 at Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), S.F. Tickets are $15-$20; call 820-1656 or visit www.pianofight.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed May 21.

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