Set in a downtown oasis, the San Francisco Theater Festival offers stage newbies and die-hard performance lovers a potent cocktail of thespian fun, without the exorbitant cost. The festival mixes barebones, site-specific stage production with the kind of highbrow fare you might expect from more exclusive venues. More than 100 troupes and solo performers present work on 14 stages, most of them outdoors, from excerpts to full pieces, each under 30 minutes. Best of all? The festival comes in a variety of flavors musical theater, spoken word, dance, improv, and illusionist tomfoolery, to name a few. Some of the treats include the Eastside Arts Alliances staging of poet/dramatist Amiri Barakas new play, Sisyphus Syndrome, a dreamy jazz odyssey about the African-American experience, with a live score composed by Oakland tenor saxophonist David Murray. Three Wise Monkeys reprises General Admissions, its pithy relationship dramedy about an uptight couple and their night out at the theater, while Lamplighters Music Theatre offers a traditional salute to Gilbert and Sullivan with selections from the operatic satire The Mikado. Given the close quarters, expect a bit of fourth-wall breaking. But despite the fact that different stagings may well be within earshot of one another, the event is no indefinable morass, but a choice opportunity to educate yourself on the exhilarating scope of S.F. theater.
Sun., July 27, 11 a.m., 2008