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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. 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 (N.E.) Reviewed May 21.

Squeeze Box. What could have been a simple, sweet tale about a woman finding herself gets a jolt of saltiness in Anne Randolph's hands. Or, really, it's her face, with her large eyes and incredibly expressive tongue that can grab you out of your lulled state of deep liberal sympathy at the plight of the mentally ill women she worked with in Los Angeles and instead thrust you into a world where she can be just as desperate and dirty as the women she serves. Randolph isn't afraid to skewer anyone in her one-woman show – her sexual exploits with her boyfriend get a particularly detailed and not always flattering working over. Yet this choice actually makes her moments of insight into herself and others resonate all the more. Randolph isn't out to get you to congratulate her for taking on noble causes, but to see that she – like all of us – is simply struggling to cling to the faith we all need to find those small, incredible moments of happiness in our own lives. Through June 29 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), S.F. Tickets are $15-$35; call 826-5750 or visit (M.R.) Reviewed June 4.

Teatro ZinZanni's Hail Caesar! Loosely based on the love affair between Cleopatra and "Chef" Caesar, the current Egyptian-themed production by San Francisco's long-running dinner theater company, Teatro ZinZanni, combines the sensual-brash cabaret singing talents of Debbie de Coudreaux (the only American other than Josephine Baker to have starred at Paris' Moulin Rouge) with the vaudevillian swagger of ZinZanni old-timer Frank Ferrante. What little plot the show has is quickly subsumed by the happy business of eating, drinking, and watching Ferrante and de Coudreaux' capable supporting cast of clowns, acrobats, and contortionists perform daredevil exploits mere feet beyond our dinner plates. Thanks to the professionalism of the performers, the gorgeousness of the "Spiegeltent" setting, the decent cuisine, and copiously flowing booze, Hail Caesar! makes for an entertaining way to spend an evening. The performance would be significantly improved by a more carefully integrated plot, one that seamlessly weaves the entertainment into the delivery of each culinary course, with less reliance on lengthy and often embarrassing audience participation sequences. Through Sept. 21 at the Spiegeltent, Pier 29 (at Battery), S.F. Tickets are $123-$197; call 438-2668 or visit (C.V.) Reviewed June 11.

The Busy World Is Hushed: Keith Bunin's story about an Episcopalian minister and her gay son. Through July 20. $28-$42. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-843-4822.

Citizen Josh: Josh Kornbluth's solo show. June 26-July 20. The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK Jr.), Berkeley, 510-841-6500.

The Golden Girls: The Gay Episodes: W/ Heklina, Cookie Dough, Matthew Martin, Pollo DelMar, Mike Finn, and Laurie Bushman. Through June 28. $20. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410.

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

Jack and the Beanstalk: Thrillpeddlers' Theatre of the Ridiculous Revival stages a comedy by Charles Ludlam. Sundays. Through June 29. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 248-1900.

Journeys of the Angels: A drama about Vietnam by Roy Conboy. Through July 18. El Teatro de la Esperanza, 2940 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 338-1341.

Men in Uniform: Examines the men under the attire. Through July 6. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Oh My Godmother!: A fairytale about a young gay San Franciscan written by Ron Lytle. June 26-July 26. $20-$35. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

Queer Arts Festival: The month-long festival features theater, dance, film, and more at nearly 20 venues. Through June 30.

Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium:Thrillpeddlers ushers in its Theatre of the Ridiculous Revival with Charles Busch's play. Through July 26. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 248-1900.

Tuna Does Vegas: A romp in Sin City from the Greater Tuna creative team. Through June 28. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Taylor), 551-2000.

Work Eats Home: Six one-act plays by Sleepwalkers Theatre. Through July 12. Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.

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