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Our critics weigh in on local theater

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 (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed June 11.

'Tis Pity She's a Whore. It's hard to imagine a more visceral visual metaphor for the passion and violence at the center of John Ford's 1630 revenge play, which follows the destructive fallout of an incestuous love affair between a pair of wealthy Italian siblings, than the image of a crazed brother holding aloft a dagger impaled with his murdered sister's bloody heart. Yet when actor Michael Hayden makes his important final entrance in Carey Perloff's flaccid new production for American Conservatory Theater, he's conspicuously lacking that crucial, heart-shaped kebab. The chief merit of this neutered take is Walt Spangler's eloquent scenic design. The immense, stalactitelike organ pipes above the stage, the symmetrical staircases, and the cavernous, candle-lit darkness suggest both a great baroque cathedral and a womb. Meanwhile, the beaded curtains and translucent plastic strips at the back of the stage and the secluded corners under the stairways bring a brothel to mind. Yet Ford's play is first and foremost a drama of extremes, and the production's greatest flaw is its unwillingness to push the work's ferocious limits. Through July 6 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $17-$82; call 749-2228 or visit (C.V.) Reviewed June 25.

American Joe: A drama by Lisa Reynal about a sniper and a writer. July 3-Aug. 15. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

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.

A Chorus Line: The famous musical returns. July 8-27. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Taylor), 551-2000.

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

Ishi: The Last of the Yahi: The story of Ishi as understood by playwright John Fisher. July 3-20. Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079.

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: A drama that examines the men under the attire. Through July 6. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

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

Point Break LIVE!: The long-running show heads to a new venue. Sundays. Fat City, 314 11th St. (at Folsom), 861-0524.

Red State: A story of an election by the San Francisco Mime Troupe. July 4-6. free. Dolores Park, Dolores (between 18th & 20th sts.).

Skittish: Six one-acts by Bruce Moody. July 4-Aug. 31. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell).

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